NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Okinawa-based U.S. Marine Corps Harrier jets have been cleared for use after the fleet was grounded following a crash last month. Operations will resume Friday.
The AV-8B went down in the sea while conducting an air combat training mission on Sept. 22. It was based at Kadena Air Base.
In a statement late Wednesday, the military said all Harriers have been inspected and deemed safe.
It said the plane that crashed was “involved in a mishap” but gave no details of whether this involved mechanical failure, pilot error or the actions of another aircraft or ship. The pilot ejected and was recovered with minor injuries.
Although it happened 115 nautical miles off the coast, the incident fueled anguish in Okinawa over risks to residents from U.S. military maneuvers.
The Okinawa Prefectural Government urged the U.S. military to ground the plane until preventive measures were in place to guard against another loss.
On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, said troops remain sensitive to local concerns.
“As Marine Corps Harriers resume normal flight operations in Japan, we will continue to do everything possible to safeguard the community, to include pre-flight inspections, pilot inspections, and post-flight inspections every time we fly,” he said.
The news angered some. In the prefectural assembly on Wednesday, Mitsuo Ageda, deputy governor of Okinawa, said resuming flights is “utterly unacceptable.”
Ageda said the prefectural government would lodge a protest.
AV-8B Harriers are also based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Information from Jiji added