Osprey flights over main isles to start this month

Kyodo

The U.S. military has told Japan it plans to start training flights for the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft over the main islands later this month, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said Friday.

Morimoto revealed the prospect during a meeting in Tokyo of all 47 prefectural governors. He said the training will be staged out of the Marine Corps base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Camp Fuji in Gotenba, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The U.S. military has yet to disclose precise details of the training using the MV-22 transport aircraft currently deployed to the Futenma base in Okinawa, according to sources.

The aircraft has drawn strong opposition and stirred controversy in Okinawa and other areas over its spotty safety record, which includes a series of accidents overseas, some of them deadly.

The training is believed to include transportation and midair refueling, the sources said.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also sought the cooperation of prefectural governments at a gathering of the governors at his office on Friday.

Sources said he will pitch the Osprey training as a way to reduce the base-hosting burdens in Okinawa.

A senior Defense Ministry official said the government will continue to urge the U.S. military to provide specifics about the Osprey training flights.

But the bid could prove a challenge as the United States is not obliged to reveal its military exercise plans in advance.