LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Marine Corps will land MV-22 Osprey aircraft on the Maritime Self-Defence Force helicoper destroyer Hyuga on Friday at Naval Base San Diego, the first time the U.S. will land the hybrid transports on a Japanese ship, the marines said.
The exercise is one of the most highly anticipated events of Dawn Blitz 2013, a series of drills in Southern California involving the U.S. military and forces from Japan, Canada and New Zealand to enhance their amphibious capabilities.
Capt. Akihiko Tanabe, the Hyuga’s skipper, said there are certain accommodations the ship and crew will have to make because of the large wingspan of the tilt-rotor Osprey compared with the helicopters that normally land on the vessel’s flight deck.
Tanabe added that the MV-22 Osprey could prove useful if another catastrophe on the scale of the March 2011 triple disasters in Tohoku were to occur.
Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, commanding general of the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which is participating in the Dawn Blitz exercises, said in a statement, “The very first landing of an MV-22 Osprey on a Japanese ship is a historic moment for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Marine Corps at large.
“Dawn Blitz 2013 provides us an opportunity to enhance our long-standing relationship with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and to highlight the capabilities of the MV-22 Osprey, which allows the Marine Corps and Navy to quickly respond to a crisis when launched from sea or land.”
The Osprey has been the subject of intense controversy in Okinawa, where the U.S. military stationed a squadron of the aircraft at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma last October. Protests exploded over worries about the aircraft’s safety following two 2012 crashes, in Florida and Morocco.
A second MV-22 squadron is scheduled to arrive in Okinawa this summer.
This year is the first time the SDF is participating in the Dawn Blitz exercises and also marks the first time personnel from the MSDF and Ground and Air Self-Defense forces are participating together.
GSDF rifleman Sgt. Shinya Matsuo, 31, is among around 140 Japanese ground troops on the Hyuga for the exercises. Matsuo, who is acting as a translator and interpreter, said he and his colleagues are excited about the opportunity to work with service members from other countries, but are also a little nervous.
“I think we need to make strong relationships with other countries’ troops,” Matsuo, who has served in the GSDF for eight years, added.
Crews from two others MSDF vessels, the tank landing ship Shimokita and Aegis destroyer Atago, are also in San Diego for the exercises.