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U.S. Ospreys to take part in Japan tsunami drill in October

Kyodo

The U.S. military’s MV-22 Osprey aircraft will take part in a tsunami disaster drill Oct. 19 in Wakayama Prefecture, the prefectural government said Tuesday.

It will be the first disaster drill organized by a prefectural government for the tilt-rotor aircraft deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, Wakayama officials said.

The drill will be practice for a massive earthquake and tsunami originating in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan.

An Osprey is expected to transport relief supplies while prefectural officials act as injured victims.

Arrangements are being made for the people to be ferried from the Cape of Shionomisaki at the southern tip of Wakayama to the helicopter carrier Ise of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, while another Osprey remains in the air nearby.

The U.S. Marines’ deployment of 24 Ospreys to Futenma was opposed by local residents amid safety concerns. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will reduce the burden on Okinawa from hosting the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan, and to do so, he will urge the U.S. military to move some of the training involving Ospreys out of the island prefecture.

The Defense Ministry plans to purchase 17 Ospreys under a five-year defense program through the fiscal year ending March 2019. They will be used to help defend outlying islands and in disasters. The MV-22s can take off and land like a helicopter while flying as fast as an airplane.

The central government is now seeking support from the Saga Prefectural Government for its plan to deploy the 17 Ospreys at Saga Airport.