As part of the United States’ fleet upgrade in the Asia-Pacific region, a second squadron of MV-22 Osprey aircraft is set to arrive in Japan by the end of July. It will be delivered first to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni near Hiroshima before being permanently deployed to the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in south-central Okinawa.
The 12 tilt-rotor hybrid Ospreys, which takes off and lands like helicopters but cruise like planes, are set to replace the old Marine Corps dual-rotor helicopters and can fly at a greater distance plus carry more cargo. The deployment to Japan of these aircraft will increase and improve the military capabilities of the US in the Far East, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The Ospreys will undergo intensive system checks in Iwakuni before being transferred to Okinawa. The unit to handle the checks and transfers has been named the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, the Flying Tigers.
When the first squadron arrived in Futenma in October of last year, it was met with protests and demonstrations from the residents of Okinawa due to safety concerns. There were deadly crashes associated with the Ospreys during its development stages, and the residents feared it would happen in the area as well. Protestors blocked the gates to the air station and for the next several months, vigils were held in the area. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui have requested to the central government to transfer some of the Osprey training drills to their municipalities. Local leaders from Okinawa have long asked Tokyo to help ease the burden on the prefecture from hosting the U.S. Forces in the post-war decades.
[ via Stripes ]