• Kyodo

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United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft deployed to Okinawa Prefecture could head across the country to two U.S. bases in central and eastern Japan next week, Japanese defense and local officials said Thursday.

It would be the Osprey’s first visit to Camp Fuji in Gotenba city, Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.

The aircraft’s deployment in Okinawa sparked protests by local residents who were fearful of the unfamiliar tilt-rotor design. The plane’s early history was peppered with crashes.

One Osprey is expected to arrive at Camp Fuji on a transport flight on Tuesday. Two others are set to travel to Yokota on July 19 to refuel, said Gotenba city and the Defense Ministry.

The city said the ministry informed it on Wednesday that the U.S. military plans to use the Osprey to move personnel from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi air base in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. The plane will then return to Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa, on July 18, the city said.

“We strongly urge the central government to be responsible and ensure safety and assess noise,” Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu said in a statement.

Local authorities and residents have been calling for the Americans to vacate Camp Fuji, which is adjacent to the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Higashi-Fuji training range.

Two Ospreys, which are scheduled to be displayed at an aviation event in Sapporo on July 20, are expected to land at Yokota base to refuel, the ministry said.

It relayed the U.S. plan to local governments hosting the Yokota base, including Tachikawa city, where an official said, “If that is true, we will have to request them to drop such a plan.”

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