The U.S. military will deploy five Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo on Oct 1 as part of a plan to introduce a total of 10 Ospreys at the base over the next several years, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
While the Japanese ministry said the deployment will contribute to improving response by the Japan-U.S. alliance to "various circumstances," flying the aircraft in the skies over the metropolitan area could provoke public concern due to its history of accidents and mishaps inside and outside the country.
The U.S. military has informed the ministry that the five Air Force CV-22 aircraft will engage in landing and takeoff, supply air-drop and night flying drills around the Yokota base.
The ministry, which plans to deploy at Saga Airport in southwestern Japan 17 Ospreys flown by the Ground Self-Defense Force, is considering conducting a joint drill with the U.S. military using the CV-22 aircraft, officials said.
Reflecting Japanese citizens' nervousness toward the aircraft, the Saitama prefectural government protested to the ministry in July when the Ospreys to be deployed at Yokota flew to the U.S. Air Force Tokorozawa Communication Site in the prefecture near Tokyo, without prior notice.
The aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like a plane, has a record of accidents, including a fatal crash of an MV-22 — the Marine Corps variant of the Osprey — in Australia in 2017 and a crash-landing of another MV-22 in Okinawa, southwestern Japan, in 2016.
A total of 24 MV-22s have been deployed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a crowded residential area of Ginowan in Okinawa.