Osprey route change to Kii from Kyushu riles

JIJI, Kyodo

Prefectural and municipal leaders have voiced strong anger over a sudden change in the planned low-altitude training flight routes to be used by U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it changed the initially planned path across Kyushu to the Kii Peninsula-Shikoku route in order to avoid live-fire drills by the Ground Self-Defense Force in Oita Prefecture.

“We cannot accept the change because there was no advance explanation,” Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka said Tuesday.

The three days of training flights apparently started Wednesday on the changed route, as three Ospreys were seen flying over Kochi and Ehime prefectures between 3:20 and 3:30 p.m. before returning to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The Ospreys are now slated to fly over Wakayama and the prefectures of Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima during the training.

Nisaka said he does not oppose the security cooperation between Japan and the United States or U.S. military exercises in Japan, but he said, “I don’t understand why the planes have to fly over Wakayama.

“Neither the U.S. military nor Japan’s local defense bureau gave any explanation.”

Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi said he is “very much surprised with the sudden change” to the Kii-Shikoku “orange” route.

A senior Kochi official complained that the prefecture was swayed by frequent changes in information on the flight route.

After knowing the reason for the abrupt change, a senior Oita official said the U.S. military should have known there would be live-fire drills under the Kyushu “yellow” route if it had prior communication with the GSDF.