Japan lawyers group campaigns against Yokota Ospreys plan
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Citing safety concerns, the president of a Japanese lawyers’ group is urging Japan and the United States to ditch a plan to station a special operations squadron of CV-22 Ospreys at Yokota.
The tilt-rotor aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing aircraft, “will impose serious threats on the life and property of people in Japan,” Susumu Murakoshi, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said in a statement Wednesday.
“We cannot overlook the planned deployment because it will go against the spirit of the constitution of Japan, which recognizes the right of the people, the right to own property and the right to live in peace, free from fear and want,” the statement said.
Murakoshi’s statement cited an incident in May in which two Marines died and two others were injured when an MV-22 Osprey crashed during training at Marine Corps Training Area-Bellows in Hawaii. The statement also mentions the April 2012 crash of an MV-22 in which two Marines were killed, and the June 2012 crash of a CV-22 that injured five crewmembers in Florida.
The U.S. and Japanese governments faced similar concerns in 2013 when it was announced that the Marine Corps would station 12 MV-22 Ospreys on Okinawa.
After a series of protests — along with attempts to reassure Japanese officials — the aircraft were eventually phased into the Marine mission on the island. And despite the fact that there have been no major incidents with the Marine aircraft in Japan, officials still called for the suspension of flights in the country following the May crash in Hawaii.
A U.S. Forces Japan official said Thursday that the Japanese government has determined the MV-22 and CV-22 Ospreys to be safe.
The U.S. Air Force has rigorous safety standards and places safety as a top priority, said Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman, U.S. Forces Japan director of public affairs.
“The Osprey has an excellent operational safety record and ranks among the very safest of all U.S. military aircraft,” Hoffman said. “CV-22 aircrews are highly trained in all aspects of flight operations and emergency procedures. Our commitment to the safety of our Japanese neighbors, our families and personnel in the conduct of all flight operations is uncompromising.”
Three of the Yokota Ospreys will arrive in the second half of 2017 with seven more scheduled to arrive by 2021, according to the Department of Defense.
Yokota’s Ospreys will be used to enhance the capability of U.S. Special Operations forces to respond to crises and disasters in Japan and the greater region, a Department of Defense statement said. The Ospreys are also intended to promote stronger defense relations with Japan Self-Defense Forces.
In May, the State Department approved the sale of 17 Ospreys to Japan for $3 billion.