TOKYO -- The Ministry of Defense has decided to delay the planned shipment this fall of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the United States to Japan because persuading local communities where the U.S. made military aircraft are scheduled to be deployed faces resistance as expected, people familiar with the decision have told the Mainichi Shimbun.
The ministry originally planned to temporarily place the aircraft at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)'s Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo while ministry officials negotiate with the local community on their final destination in Saga Prefecture in southern Japan.
The ministry still intends to make the shipment before the end of this fiscal year in March 2019 and will continue to negotiate with the local governments of Chiba Prefecture and the city of Kisarazu, the sources said.
In their temporary deployment talks held since spring this year, Chiba Prefecture and Kisarazu officials expressed concerns about safety and the potential that Kisarazu would eventually become the permanent base for the aircraft. The ministry tried to persuade them by saying that Saga Prefecture Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi announced in August the acceptance of the 17 Ospreys at the local airport in the city of Saga. Ministry officials judged that their Chiba Prefecture and Kisarazu counterparts are not likely to accept the plan by November, when the aircraft were scheduled to be shipped from the U.S.
Camp Kisarazu accommodates an Osprey maintenance depot for the U.S. military stationed in Okinawa, and work on the first American Osprey is expected to be completed soon. The ministry intends to revive its negotiations with the local officials as soon as the maintenance is complete.
The GSDF plans to base the Ospreys at the Saga airport and construct a parking space in a neighboring area for the aircraft. They will be used for the transportation of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was established this March at GSDF Camp Aiura in the city of Sasebo in the southern Japan prefecture of Nagasaki. Five of the 17 Ospreys will be introduced in this fiscal year.
It is expected to take several more years for the aircraft to be actually stationed in Saga. Negotiations between the prefectural government and the local fisheries cooperative that owns the land needed for the aircraft will only begin in the spring of 2019 or later to review the pollution prevention agreement for the dual use of the Saga airport by commercial airlines and the Self-Defense Forces.
(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)