Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Flight of the Valkyries: US Plan to Train V-22 Osprey throughout Okinawa & Mainland Japan

Despite concerns expressed by the Japanese government and opposition by local government officials in Kyushu and Okinawa, the U.S. Marines want to push through a plan to "train" the accident prone V-22 Osprey aircraft throughout Okinawa and much of the Japanese mainland, according to Kosuke Takahashi in US Marines eye Japan as a training yard" published last week at The Asia Times:

Taking advantage of the scheduled deployment of MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Okinawa, the USMC plans to conduct training flights over almost all of mainland Japan. With US Marines being forced to reduce their military footprint on Okinawa due to local opposition, America seems intent on making the rest of Japan its training yard.

According to a recent USMC report titled "Final Environmental Review for Basing MV-22 at MCAS Futenma and Operating in Japan (April 2012)" the US will use this situation to moves the Ospreys around the Japanese mainland freely. This report, published on Japan's Ministry of Defense website, shows detailed plans for low-altitude flight training in Japan via six different flight routes above the Japanese archipelago highlighted by different colors [above].

Specifically, those six routes are: the Tohoku route across Akita prefecture(pink); the Tohoku route across Miyagi prefecture(green); the Hokushinetsu route across Nigata prefecture(blue); the Shikoku- the Kii peninsula route(orange); the Kyushu route (yellow); the Amami Islands route (purple).
More info on the plan to turn Japan and Okinawa into a vast US military training site at "Why mainland Japan should care about the Osprey deployment in Okinawa" posted at Seetell Japan:
Under the proposed action, the USMC would make the fullest possible use of Camp Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture on mainland Japan and those six routes extending along Japanese islands. Currently, the CH-46E squadrons do not use Camp Fuji and MCAS Iwakuni and those routes.

The MV-22 squadrons are expected to conduct 28% and 4% of these six route operations between evening and night, respectively, or about one-third of them during late afternoon and night. In addition, the US plans to conduct low-level flight training down to 500 feet, or 152 meters, above ground level in those six courses, at airspeeds of 120 to 250 knots, depending upon the flight mode.
The Asahi's "Objections raised over U.S. plan for Osprey flights outside Okinawa" details the invasive nature of the training plan and mainland prefectural opposition:

Objections to the Osprey deployment are now being heard in other prefectures following the Defense Ministry’s release on June 13 of an environmental assessment report submitted by the U.S. Marine Corps. It showed that the U.S. military is planning low-altitude Osprey training flights on Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

The report--the first time the U.S. military has admitted it was planning low-altitude training flights in Japan--showed six different flight routes named by different colors.

Three routes are planned for mountainous areas of the Tohoku and Shinetsu regions of Honshu. One planned route extends from Shikoku to the Kii Peninsula of Honshu, while the other two routes are over Kyushu and the Amami islands between Kyushu and Okinawa.

The report states that flight and tactical training exercises involving the Osprey would bring the aircraft as low as about 150 meters above ground.

Over the course of a year, 330 training flights are planned for the six routes, with about one-third of them taking place between late afternoon and night, according to the report.
(Protest Rally against proposed use of Okinawa as a V-22 Osprey training ground.
Photo taken in front of Okinawa prefectural building on July 1.
Photo: Naofumi Nakato of Okinawa Outreach)

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