ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
US begins Osprey test flights in Japan
Publication Date : 22-09-2012
The US Marine Corps on Friday conducted the first test flights in Japan of its new Osprey transport aircraft, temporarily based at Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The US military plans to begin deploying 12 MV-22 Ospreys at its Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, possibly from the end of the month after completing test flights.
The government is going to increase efforts to obtain acceptance of the deployment from the Okinawa prefectural government and municipalities near the base.
The test flights came after the government formally agreed with Washington on measures to ensure the safety of Osprey operations and issued a safety declaration Wednesday.
Shortly after 9am Friday, an Osprey taxied to a runway at the Iwakuni base and took off at about 9:25am The tilt-rotor aircraft switched to its airplane mode over the sea and flew away. Another Osprey took off at about 9:50am Both aircraft returned to the base by 11am.
A third Osprey departed the base at 12:35pm while a fourth one took off at 12:44pm. Both were bound for Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The test flights are made for the purpose of mechanical checks and to confirm pilots' flight operational abilities. Friday's test flights were reportedly carried out in US military training airspace, code-named R134, over the Sea of Japan, about 50 kilometres northwest of Shimonoseki.
Defence Vice Minister Hideo Jinpu had told the Iwakuni city government that the Ospreys would avoid flying over the city's urban areas and instead head to the training area by flying over the Seto Inland Sea. However, two Ospreys flew over an urban area.
At a press conference after a Cabinet meeting Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said, "[The test flights] are being conducted to confirm the capabilities of the aircraft and their pilots, and were scheduled activities."
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said, "We couldn't gain clear consent for the test flights from local governments, but I believe we've come to an understanding [with the people of Yamaguchi Prefecture] on our request regarding national security."
"We'd like to ask for similar understanding from people in Okinawa Prefecture," he added.
Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto plans to visit Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday to meet Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and others.
During the visit, Morimoto is expected to express the central government's consideration for local people by explaining to them that safety guidelines agreed between the Japanese and US governments include restrictions on training flight altitude and where the transition between horizontal and vertical rotor operations should be conducted.