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US hints tankers possible at Schwab airfield

Date Posted: 2006-12-22

Japan and the US are sparring over exactly how the new airfield at Camp Schwab will be used by military aircraft.

The American military is steadfastly insisting it will use the two V-shape runways to be built at the northern Okinawa Marine Base for both training and operational missions. It says the aircraft will occasionally fly over residential areas, something Japanese officials are saying won’t happen.

An agreement was reached December 4th between the two governments’ defense agencies, but some disagreement is surfacing about exactly what American planes will and will not do. Japanese Defense Agency Chief Fumio Kyuma told the Diet the planes would only fly over residential areas in emergencies.

Not true, says the Defense Department, which flatly says planes may fly over residential areas in both operational and wartime scenarios.

Another element of disagreement centers on runway approach lights for the two runways. The agreement says lights will only guide planes in from two directions, but the U.S. military continues to say it may take off and land planes both from the water side, and over nearby residential areas.

The Americans, as they explain their positions, also have made comments, which suggest the new Camp Schwab airfield could be used both by KC-130 aerial refueling tankers and transport planes. The current Futenma Marine Corps Air Station handles C-130 transports and a variety of other aircraft and helicopters. Japan, for its part, has said it expects the airfield to be used only for helicopters.

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