The U.S. may deploy the MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and land transport aircraft to Okinawa in July, moving up the schedule from the initially planned fall stationing, according to sources.
Washington has informed Japan of the possible earlier deployment of the aircraft at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, the sources said recently.
The deployment of the Osprey was believed expected in October, thus moving up their arrival will draw more protests from the local government and community, which remain opposed to both the aircraft and to the existence of the Futenma base.
Okinawa residents and officials are concerned about the noise and safety of the aircraft, given the Osprey’s history of fatal crashes during test flights.
The U.S. Defense Department announced last June that it plans to replace the aging CH-46 helicopters, currently at the Futenma base, with the Ospreys.
The U.S. government had been thinking of temporarily stationing the aircraft in places such as U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture prior to their deployment at Futenma, to demonstrate the aircraft’s safety, the sources said.
According to the sources, the United States plans to first station 12 Ospreys at Futenma and later up the deployment to 24.