Japan, U.S. to hold Honshu military drill using Osprey aircraft
Japan and the United States will hold joint military exercises using six Osprey transport aircraft on the main island of Honshu in March, the Ground Self-Defense Force said Thursday.
The biannual drill, Forest Light, will be the first opportunity for the MV-22 planes to take part in an exercise in mainland Japan since one ditched in shallow waters off the coast of Okinawa Island in December.
The participation of the Ospreys is in line with the two countries’ agreement in September to increase drills outside Okinawa, home to the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, and reduce the burden shouldered by the island’s residents.
Gen. Toshiya Okabe, GSDF chief of staff, defended the use of the Ospreyin the drill, citing the U.S. explanation that last year’s accident in Okinawa was not caused by any problem with the aircraft itself.
Okabe also said some members of the GSDF, which will start using the aircraft in fiscal 2019, will descend from a hovering Osprey in the drill.
The joint drill is scheduled on March 9 and 10 at a training range near the GSDF’s Camp Somagahara in Gunma Prefecture and on March 13-15 at a training range near Camp Sekiyama in Niigata Prefecture.
The Dec. 13 ditching off Okinawa was the first major accident involving the aircraft in Japan since the start of their deployment in 2012, prompting safety concerns in the local community and other areas in Japan.