National

Japan backtracks on basing Ospreys at civilian-use Saga Airport

Kyodo

The government has tentatively decided to station Osprey aircraft at a Ground Self-Defense Force camp because of difficulties in basing them as planned in fiscal 2019 at Saga Airport, a source said Monday.

Concerns have been growing in Saga Prefecture over the safety of the tilt-rotor transport aircraft following a fatal crash off the coast of Australia earlier this month.

A fleet of Ospreys is likely to be stationed at a GSDF camp in the Kyushu region, which includes Saga Prefecture, or at Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture, the source said.

Public opposition is expected in whatever area is chosen.

Ospreys are currently operated in Japan only by the U.S. Marines and are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa.

The central government has proposed acquiring 17 of the aircraft for the GSDF and deploying them at Saga Airport to enhance the defense of remote islands.

But the local fishing cooperative that owns the land slated to host the support facilities expressed opposition to the proposal in July.

While Saga Prefecture, which operates the airport, has been inclined to accept the proposal, it has said it will not make a final decision until the cause of the accident in Australia becomes clear.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will continue efforts to station the Ospreys at Saga Airport, the source said.

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