SAGA – Hundreds of residents in the city of Saga held a rally Saturday in front of City Hall to protest the central government’s plan to base a U.S. squadron of MV-22 Ospreys at Saga Airport, effectively militarizing the facility.
The participants then took to the streets of downtown Saga, shouting slogans such as “We don’t need Ospreys.”
In July, the Defense Ministry asked the Saga Prefectural Government to let it deploy 17 Ospreys at the airport starting in fiscal 2019, when the Self-Defense Forces are scheduled to adopt the funky tilt-rotor transport aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like a plane.
Last Monday, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa effectively accepted the ministry’s plan to request funds from the fiscal 2015 budget to acquire land around the civilian airport to build an SDF camp next to it.
The central government also plans to let the U.S. military use Saga Airport to refuel and maintenance the aircraft, which the U.S. Marines are reluctantly shifting out of Okinawa to shrink the U.S. military’s giant footprint on the island prefecture.