Japan, U.S. consider Osprey night-flight training in Hokkaido
Japan and the United States are considering operating the U.S. military's Osprey aircraft at night as part of an upcoming joint exercise planned in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, an official of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force said Wednesday.
The exercise involving GSDF members and U.S. Marines is planned between Aug. 10 and 28 in areas across Hokkaido. If realized, it will be the first time that Ospreys, which have stirred concerns due to their accident record, will operate at night during a Japan-U.S. drill.
Six MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which belong to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Japan's southern island prefecture of Okinawa, will be mobilized for the joint exercise.
Conducting Osprey training in Hokkaido is part of the two countries' efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa from hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.
Okinawans have been frustrated with noise, crimes and accidents linked to U.S. bases. There are also concerns over the safety of the Osprey aircraft, whose tilt-rotor props enable them to land and take off like a helicopter yet fly like an airplane once airborne.
In December last year, a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey crash-landed in waters off the main island of Okinawa.
Under a Japan-U.S. accord to address aircraft noise, take-off and landing after 10 p.m. are limited to instances considered necessary for the U.S. military's operational requirements. The Osprey night-flight training is expected to be held in line with the accord.