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Air Force nixed Futenma merger 12 years ago

Date Posted: 2008-03-24

A plan proposed by Japan and endorsed by the U.S. Marine Corps to consolidate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station helicopters on Kadena Air Base was rejected by U.S. Forces Japan.
A newly declassified Pentagon document reveals the Marine Corps thought moving Futenma operations to Kadena Air Base was feasible, but the Air Force fought the move, claiming adding helicopter aprons along the runways would hamper emergency operations and interfere with regular operations, as well. The Marines said moving helicopter operations from Futenma to Kadena could be accomplished easily, and other problems resolved by the Air Force expanding parking areas and reviewing forces deployment. They said Naha International Airport could also be used under emergency circumstances.
The July 26, 1996 document was filled with technical analysis of the proposed move, but shows U.S. Forces Japan adopted the Air Force position such a move would cause a political impact because of changes in troop and aircraft strength, and because of potential reductions in emergency operations capabilities.
The document, which included Japanese recommendations some Kadena-based aircraft shifting to mainland Self Defense Force bases in times of crisis, endorsed use of Naha Airport as a supplemental airfield. It went further, addressing realignment of some American troops from Okinawa to mainland Japan.
Relocating Navy antisubmarine patrol planes to southern Kyushu Island was proposed, as was use of Self Defense Force bases across mainland Japan. It also noted potential difficulties with various moves, as well as the newly recommended plan for a joint military-civilian airfield in the Nago City area.
Shortly after the document was written, the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, a Japan-U.S. group, approved the plan for moving Futenma to an airfield to be built in waters just off the northeast coast of Okinawa. That plan stalled, and in May 2006 the two countries tried again, agreeing to construct an airfield at Camp Schwab, with two V-shape runways extending into the nearby bay by 2014.

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