3 more Osprey planes deployed to Okinawa

Three more MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport planes have arrived at the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa.

The three, which flew in from the Marines’ Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, added to the six planes that were transferred on Monday.  Of the remaining three still at the Iwakuni base, two need maintenance that requires parts from the United States and so may remain at Iwakuni for a while.  The 12 Osprey aircraft were shipped from the United States in July.

The Marines aim to start full use of the planes by the end of this month. Operations will include airlifting soldiers to military exercise sites and low-altitude flight drills across Japan.  The Osprey deployment is also likely to have international repercussions when tensions between Japan and China remain high over the Senkaku islands in the southernmost Japan prefecture.  The Japanese-controlled uninhabited East China Sea islands, claimed also by China, where they are known as Diaoyu, lie between the Okinawa island and Taiwan.

The aircraft, which can fly like a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane, provides twice the speed, three times the payload and four times the range of the CH-46 helicopter, which the Osprey will replace at the Futenma base. The Osprey’s combat radius, or the maximum distance it can reach and return after finishing a combat mission, is about 600 kilometers.  This is enough to cover the Senkaku islands from the main Okinawa island. Uotsurijima, the largest of the five islands, is about 410 kilometers from the Okinawa island on which the Futenma base is located.