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Tokushima Pref. to share witness info on US military planes as low-altitude flights surge

A plane that appears to be the U.S. military's Osprey aircraft is pictured in the town of Mugi, Tokushima Prefecture, on Sept. 12, 2019, in this photo provided by Masafumi Fujimoto.

TOKUSHIMA -- The Tokushima Prefectural Government is set to launch a section on its website to share photos, videos and other witness reports of low-flying aircraft following frequent sightings of such planes believed to belong to the U.S. forces in the southern and western parts of the prefecture.

The section, to be launched by the end of this year, follows low-altitude flights by what appeared to be U.S. military aircraft in Tokushima Prefecture in western Japan over a total of 24 days between April and Sept. 14 this year. This is more than during the whole of fiscal 2018, when such flights were reported on a total of 19 days.

"We want people to provide objective footage and would like to utilize the information to further demand that low-level flight drills be suspended," said an official at the prefectural government's general affairs division.

According to the prefectural government, the website will carry information such as the date and time of low-altitude flights that the central government has confirmed to be those likely made by U.S. military aircraft upon prefectural inquiries. It will also include the locations of such flights, the number of planes involved, the altitude of the flights, the noise level, requests that the prefectural government has filed with the central government concerning those flights, and photos and videos provided by the public. Citizens will be able to post information through a special form. No operating costs will arise as the section will be part of the prefectural government's website.

In August, Naka Mayor Hirofumi Sakaguchi and Kaiyo Mayor Shigeki Miura filed a request with Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi asking that the number of noise measurement devices be increased in areas along the so-called "Orange Route," or the route used in the U.S. military's low-altitude flight drills, and that witness information on U.S. military aircraft provided to the prefectural government be widely shared with relevant local bodies and residents via its website and other means.

In response, the prefectural government put together a September general accounting supplementary budget bill earmarking 3 million yen to go toward boosting the number of noise measurement devices in three municipalities including the city of Miyoshi.

(Japanese original by Kazuya Osaka, Tokushima Bureau)

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