• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States are considering operating the U.S. military’s Osprey aircraft at night as part of an upcoming joint exercise planned in Hokkaido, an official of the Ground Self-Defense Force said Wednesday.

The exercise involving GSDF members and U.S. Marines is planned between Aug. 10-28 in parts of Hokkaido. If realized, it will be the first time that Ospreys, which have stirred concerns due to their accident record, will operate at night during a Japan-U.S. drill.

Six MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, will be mobilized for the joint exercise.

Conducting Osprey training in Hokkaido is part of bilateral efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa from hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.

Okinawans have been frustrated with noise, crime and accidents linked to U.S. bases. There are also concerns over the safety of the Osprey aircraft, whose tilt-rotor props enable them to land and take off like a helicopter yet fly like an airplane.

Last December, a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey crash-landed in waters off the main island of Okinawa.

Under a Japan-U.S. accord to address aircraft noise, take-off and landing after 10 p.m. is limited to instances considered necessary by the U.S. military.

The night-flight training involving the Ospreys is expected to be held in line with the accord.

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