Osprey aircraft protests show no sign of letting up in Okinawa

In Other News - August 6th, 2013
Osprey Aircraft

Protests greeted the arrival of two more Osprey aircraft at the US Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture just days after it was reported deployment in Tokyo was being considered.

The two tilt-rotor aircraft arrived from Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Saturday as dozens of people staged a rally in front of the base’ main gate.

A male protester was arrested on suspicion of obstructing authorities in a scuffle, the first detention made in connection with the rallies against the deployment of the Osprey aircraft.

Ten more are expected to be stationed at the Futenma base in Ginowan, adding to the existing fleet of 12 transferred from Iwakuni last year.

The deployment is part of the US’ plan to station 24 of the sophisticated transport aircraft at the Futenma base, The Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

The aircraft is replacing aging CH-46 helicopters in Okinawa.

The facility is situated in a populated area, ramping up concerns among residents over the aircraft’s spotty safety record.

“Residents are living side by side with the potential danger, including those in heavily concentrated areas,” Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima told The Asahi Shimbun.

Nakaima expressed regret over the deployment of the Osprey and said they would “continue to strongly demand a review of the deployment plan and disperse the deployment.”

Osprey’s controversial safety record include 318 breaches of no-flying policy in airspace over heavily concentrated residential areas, according to a Okinawa prefectural government report last year.

The hybrid aircraft has a history of crashes – in 2012, two Osprey crashed in separate incidents in Florida and Morocco.

by Maesie Bertumen

Image: #PACOM/Flickr