A freighter from the United States arrived on Tuesday at the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan carrying 12 new MV-22 Osprey VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft prior to their deployment destination at the Futenma base in Okinawa. The new tilt-rotor aircraft is expected to arrive in Japan’s southernmost prefecture – which holds the majority of US military forces in Japan – in early August.
The US military forces in Okinawa already have 12 of these controversial Ospreys at Futenma, the first batch deployed last year. MV-22 Ospreys can take off and land like a helicopter while retaining forward propulsion capabilities like an airplane. These unique aircrafts are set to replace the aging CH-46 helicopters that are now being phased out of military service by the US. The US Marine Corps is set to do maintenance on the latest Osprey batch at the Iwakuni base, conducting week-long test flights before flying them out to Okinawa. Such is the controversy around these military aircraft that the governments of Yamaguchi Prefecture and Iwakuni City are even now asking the US military to shorten the Ospreys’ stay in Iwakuni.
There has also been a lot of protest against these aircraft in Okinawa. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has publicly and repeatedly asked for the aircraft not to be deployed in his prefecture because of the aircraft’s known history of failures and crashes in US military service. According to reports, the first batch of the Ospreys has been flying in VTOL mode over urban areas in Okinawa. Nakaima says that this is allegedly in violation of a Japan-U.S agreement that stipulates the Ospreys’ flights in VTOL mode should be within the boundaries of US military facilities and areas, “except as operationally necessary.”