Osprey training flights to begin soon over Japan

The U.S. government has taken an unusual step of advising Japan that it plans to begin MV-22 Osprey training flights over Okinawa’s main islands later this month.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto made the announcement to a gathering of Japan’s 47 prefectural governors, explaining the training will be conducted from Marine corps bases in Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Iwakuni Prefecture, and Camp Fuji in Gotenba, Shizuoka Prefecture.  Morimoto says the U.S. has yet to disclose specific details of MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft training in Okinawa.  A squadron of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft were deployed here last month, and another squadron is still slated for Futenma.

The Osprey has been drawing plenty of opposition and controversy in Okinawa, where residents continue to complain about the hybrid aircraft-helicopter’s safety record, which has included several overseas accidents.  The United States is not obligated to provide details of its training or exercise plans in advance, which could provide a challenge to the Defense Ministry’s efforts to encourage the U.S. military to provide specific details of Osprey training flights.

Training, sources say, will include transportation and midair refueling.  Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s Prime Minister, is seeking the cooperation of prefectural governors.  During Friday’s session in Tokyo, he joined Morimoto in pitching Osprey training as one means of reducing Okinawa’s base-hosting burdens.