Japan, U.S. huddle over Osprey safety

Kyodo

Tokyo and Washington held consultations Thursday over the safety of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, ahead of their planned deployment to the U.S. Futenma base in Okinawa, the Foreign Ministry said.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto has previously stressed that safety concerns over the tilt-rotor transports, in particular about low-altitude training flights planned over many parts of Japan, will be addressed through bilateral negotiations.

Thursday’s talks took place at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, and were held as a followup to a July 26 meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on the Status of Forces Agreement.

During that meeting, also held in Tokyo, the Japanese side requested that the U.S. refrain from flying Ospreys over residential areas between U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa Island and other American military installations.

Local leaders and residents have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to Washington’s plan to deploy MV-22s to Futenma, which is located in a densely populated neighborhood of the city of Ginowan. The aircraft will replace aging CH-46 choppers at the base.

The crash of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 in the Florida Panhandle in June and the fatal crash of an MV-22 in Morocco two months earlier fueled existing concerns about the aircraft’s questionable safety record during flight testing.

In late July, 12 Ospreys were offloaded at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture in preparation for transfer to Futenma in October.