National

U.S.-Japan exercise in Hokkaido will use Osprey starting Friday despite safety concerns

Kyodo

The government said Tuesday that U.S. military Osprey will take part in an ongoing defense exercise in Hokkaido later this week, giving the green light to a plan that was halted following the fatal crash of one of the aircraft off Australia.

Up to six MV-22 Ospreys will join the exercise from Friday, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters, adding that the United States values the role the tilt-rotor transport aircraft plays in the security of Japan and East Asia.

“Japan also believes there is important significance in the Osprey’s participation in the exercise. We will continue to ask the U.S. side to give as much consideration as possible to safe flight operations,” Onodera said.

U.S. Marine Corps and Ground Self-Defense Force troops began the exercise last Thursday as originally planned, but Ospreys were sidelined due to the Aug. 5 crash and heightened concerns among residents near the exercise site.

As part of the exercise, Ospreys are scheduled to fly from the U.S. military’s Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture to two maneuver sites in Hokkaido. The aircraft are all based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

Ospreys, which take off and land like helicopters but cruise like planes, are heavily opposed by many residents in Okinawa due to the noise they generate and their safety record. Japan and the United States have been working to reduce the base-related burden on Okinawa, and holding exercises involving Osprey outside of the prefecture is part of that effort.

In Hokkaido, the Ospreys will engage in exercises including transportation of military personnel, according to Onodera. The exercise will continue through Aug. 28.