The Sept. 14 editorial “Osprey adds to the burden” argues that the introduction of the new medium-lift U.S. Marine Corps aircraft to replace the aging CH-46 helicopter “will further increase the host burden” on the residents of Okinawa.” If anything, the introduction of the MV-22, which has been in service since 2007 in other parts of the world, will reduce the impact on the local community:
(1) The MV-22 provides for generally quieter operations, overall, compared with the CH-46 helicopter.
(2) The MV-22 will fly higher and faster, spending less time over populated areas.
(3) MV-22 detachments will deploy regularly outside of Okinawa for training, reducing the amount of time they are in Okinawa.
(4) Use of simulators will lead to a reduction in the number of daily operations.
(5) The range and capabilities of the aircraft will reduce the need to return to base and refuel as often as the CH-46.
Why is the MV-22 able to do all this?
The tilt-rotor technology is revolutionary, combining the capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. The MV-22 is twice as fast, carries nearly three times the payload, and has four times the range as the current medium-lift CH-46 helicopter. Also, the MV-22 can operate at much higher altitudes and refuel while airborne.
As for safety, the MV-22 has an excellent operational record, one that is better than USMC averages for training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combat operations in challenging conditions. It has a proven track record. (I have flown on the Osprey, having escorted Japanese parliamentarians on a demonstration flight at USMC Air Station Miramar, California, earlier this year.)
Other factual errors in the editorial lead to continued misunderstandings. For example, a recent precautionary landing that is an everyday occurrence with commercial and military aircraft across the world was described as an “emergency landing.” The editorial also contained false statements concerning Hawaii. The USMC will be flying the Osprey at all airports and training areas in Hawaii, including those on the islands of Molokai and the Big Island. Even though the USMC has provided the correct facts on Hawaii many times, the editorial ignores them.
It is not true that “74 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan … in terms of area” are concentrated in Okinawa. There are three types of U.S. bases — exclusive use and shared use (two types) with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. As such, the actual number is closer to 22 percent. If “U.S. military bases” means exclusive use, then the number is 62 percent, as two-thirds of the Central Training Area has been used with the Ground Self-Defense Force since 2008.
The U.S. government has agreed on many occasions to work with the government of Japan on base consolidations and reductions, such as the conditional return of 51 percent of the Northern Training Area (agreed to in 1996). If these lands were returned, the percentage of U.S. “exclusive use” areas would be reduced to about 45 percent. The domestic political situation and the stated need for consensus tend to slow down the process of land returns.
Factual errors are more often behind apprehensions and misunderstandings than anything related to a policy decision or program. I realize the editorial section is the opportunity to express the paper’s opinion, but I encourage The Japan Times to write objectively based on fact rather than repeating incorrect assertions. Doing so allows for a healthier and more constructive discussion.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.