A series of training flights with its most recent acquisition, the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, has already been started by the United States Marine Corps in the air space above the Japanese main islands for the first time, said the local press. The Marines reportedly plan for the three-day flight training to take place in the “Orange” airspace zone, which covers mountainous terrain in the western Japanese prefectures of Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, and in Wakayama Prefecture in the Kansai region and the Kii Peninsula of central Honshu Island.
It was reported that three of the Ospreys already kicked off the low- altitude flight training over Kochi Prefecture late in the afternoon yesterday. They took off from U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, where they have been deployed, and headed to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture to take part in the training. U.S. Marines officials allegedly said that three planes will fly at the allowed air space at a minimum altitude of 150 meters during the day and 300 meters during the evening until 10 p.m. during the course of the training period. This is said to be following Japan’s Civil Aeronautics Law.
The exercises come despite public concerns over safety issues in relation to the aircraft. Before the flight training began, local residents made demonstrations against the drill in western Japanese cities. They reason that not only will the flights disturb their daily living environment, but the aircrafts are extremely dangerous because of the low flights, which have the tendency to crash into residential areas. In fact, Okinawans have long been protesting against the military bases in their area, which only sparked even more controversy when these new aircrafts were brought in last October.
[via NZ Week]