More hazards for Okinawans

Naha

In his Sept. 23 letter, “Osprey will reduce the impact,” Robert D. Eldridge emphasizes that Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan will be eased because of the medium-lift, tilt-rotor MV-22 “Osprey” aircraft’s functional supremacy compared with the conventional CH-46 helicopter. He enumerates five reasons for this supremacy, and I would like to address each one:

(1) The MV-22 is quieter than the CH-46. If that’s true, why was there a storm of protests against noise from an Osprey flight into a muncipal airport in Brewton, Alabama, on Jan. 19, 2011?

(2) It will fly higher and faster, spending less time over populated areas. The Ospreys may fly higher and faster than conventional helicopters, but that doesn’t mean they won’t fly over densely populated sections of Ginowan City, adjacent to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. There’s no doubt that hazardous risks to the public will increase in neighboring areas.

(3) MV-22 detachments will deploy regularly outside of Okinawa for training, reducing the amount of time they are in Okinawa. The aircraft will probably deploy on six designated flight routes in mainland Japan. In Okinawa, we call this the “Okinawanization” of mainland Japan. The whole archipelago of Japan may become a citadel for the U.S. military just as Okinawa is now.

(4) Use of simulators will lead to a reduction in the number of daily operations. If simulator training took the place of actual flight training to reduce Okinawa’s burden, that would be fine with us. But we doubt that will happen. Osprey pilots may need simulator plus actual flight training to hone their flight skills and to avoid the kinds of errors to which crash accidents are often attributed.

(5) The range and capabilities of the aircraft will reduce the need to return to base and refuel as often as the CH-46. Who cares whether the aircraft needs frequent refueling or not?

To sum up, Eldridge is lecturing us nonsense. Deployment of Ospreys won’t reduce Okinawa’s burden as claimed. The pristine natural environment, including a lush forest around Takae Village, is already being destroyed in northern Okinawa because of the construction of six landing and takeoff facilities for Ospreys.

Eldridge mentions the pending “conditional return of 51 percent of the Northern Training Area” (78.3 sq. kilometers) to Japan … but most of the land there is Japanese government-owned, unlike bases in the southern half of Okinawa Island. So what if we say, “No thanks” to the return of the land but instead ask that there be no construction of Osprey training facilities at Takae?

Everyone knows that U.S. Marine pilots and air crew members are assigned to Okinawa for training and providing air support to other land-based Marines who are also stationed here for training. All of this flight and combat training could be carried out with less risk to the public on the vast U.S. mainland. Futenma could be returned soon if only the Marines decided it should be that way.

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.

yoshio shimoji