LDP wants Osprey aircraft for SDF to beef up island defense

Kyodo

The Liberal Democratic Party plans to propose that the Self-Defense Forces be equipped with U.S.-built Osprey transport aircraft, party sources said.

Introducing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey would show Japan’s resolve to enhance its defense capabilities, mainly on remote isles such as the Senkaku Islands.

However, public concern ran high over safety questions when the U.S. Marine Corps stationed the MV-22 in Japan last year.

The LDP is expected to include procuring the Osprey in its proposals for new defense program guidelines that will define long-term defense policy. Final proposals are to be worked out by the end of this month.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is widely viewed as a nationalist both at home and abroad, is planning to compile the new defense guidelines by the end of the year amid heightened tensions with China over control of the Senkaku Islands.

In arguing for the Osprey, the LDP is expected to assert in its proposals that the SDF needs to be prepared for quick missions to remote islands — such as the Senkakus.

The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. Twelve were deployed to Okinawa despite local opposition after a series of accidents overseas and the U.S. Marines have started low-altitude training flights in Japan.

The Defense Ministry has earmarked ¥8 million in the fiscal 2013 budget to study whether the SDF should be equipped with the Osprey and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has expressed readiness to procure the aircraft, given their mobility.

Other proposals will include boosting the defense budget as a percentage of gross domestic product to a level close to that of the United States and Germany.