SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – In a first, U.S. Marine Corps pilots landed two MV-22 Ospreys on the Japanese helicopter destroyer Hyuga during a joint exercise Friday involving the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces in California.
The landing by the hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off like a helicopter but cruises like a plane, was viewed by the media.
“The very first landing of an MV-22 Osprey on a Japanese ship is a historic moment,” said marine Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, adding the exercise gave the U.S. “an opportunity to enhance our long-standing relationship with the Japanese and to highlight the capabilities of the MV-22 Osprey, which allows the Marine Corps to quickly respond to a crisis when launched from sea or land.”
While the Defense Ministry said the drill was aimed at preparing for humanitarian support activities and disaster-relief services, it allowed the two countries to demonstrate the utility and safety of the transport aircraft.
U.S. military officials also say bolstering Japan’s amphibious capabilities is vital as the U.S. focuses more attention on developing an Asia-Pacific strategy amid cuts to the defense budget. The region has been roiled by tensions whipped up by North Korea’s rocket and nuclear tests and territorial disputes involving China and its neighbors.
On Friday, three Ospreys flew over the Hyuga after it left Naval Base San Diego and one landed on its deck before being joined by another MV-22 later in the day.
The Ground, Maritime and Air self-defense forces are all participating in the drill, which is designed to practice the recapturing of remote islands.
The Osprey sparked protests in Okinawa after the U.S. deployed a squadron of them at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma last October. Residents fear the plane is unsafe because two crashed last year, in Florida and Morocco.
A second squadron is scheduled to arrive this summer.