Osprey low-altitude drills wrap up

JIJI

The U.S. Marine Corps was to complete low-altitude flight training with the MV-22 Osprey over mainland Japan on Friday.

Three of the tilt-rotor aircraft arrived Wednesday at the Iwakuni air base in Yamaguchi Prefecture from the Futenma base in Okinawa.

The training was to last three days through Friday and take place along the “orange route,” which traverses Shikoku and leads to the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture.

The Ospreys left Futenma around 1:10 p.m. and arrived at Iwakuni around 3:50 p.m. after looping around the orange route back to Iwakuni.

The Ospreys were required to maintain a ground separation of at least 150 meters, according to aviation law. For night training, which is allowed until 10 p.m., the minimum separation is 300 meters.

The U.S. military initially told the Defense Ministry that training would take place over Kyushu but changed the route on short notice Tuesday in light of shooting exercises planned by the Ground Self-Defense Force in Oita Prefecture during the drill.

A total of 12 Ospreys are based at Futenma in Ginowan. The government expects the Osprey drills on the mainland to reduce anxiety in Okinawa, where U.S. flight training and bases are vehemently opposed.

But Ginowan resident Chieko Oshiro, 59, said three days of training is a drop in the bucket.

“I hope people on the mainland will experience this for themselves to understand our worries and impact of the noise on our daily lives,” she said of the noise and shaking the planes create.

Satoshi Fujiwara, 81, a resident of Kochi Prefecture, said: “We are never sure about the safety of the Osprey. All of the residents of my town are worried.”

According to a U.S. military environmental assessment report, a squadron of two to six Ospreys will move from Okinawa to the Iwakuni base and Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture for two to three days of training a month. The training will be carried out at speeds of 220 to 460 kph.

The U.S. military also plans to use its Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture for Osprey training. It will conduct low-altitude flight training to simulate incursions into enemy territory, as well as midair refueling drills.