TOKYO, Five Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft were unloaded at the U.S. Army's Yokohama North Dock and will fly to Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo amid public opposition, local media reported Wednesday.
The arrival of the controversial tilt-rotor planes followed a sudden announcement that the plane's formal deployment would be brought forward from the fiscal year through September 2020, as was previously planned, to this summer.
Along with the arrival of the aircraft, 100 personnel will also arrive ahead of a broader deployment of 10 Ospreys and about 450 personnel to Yokota in the coming years.
The sudden, unexpected disclosure about the change of plans was made by U.S. forces in Japan on Tuesday, with the news unnerving local residents near the base and those who might be in the vicinity of the planes' flight paths.
The backlash, particularly from residents close to the Yokota base and Japan in general, comes as the turboprop planes are known to have a heavily checkered safety record, which includes a fatal crash occurring off the coast of Australia last year that killed three personnel aboard.
Japan's public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday, while highlighting the fact that the Yokota base is located in a densely-populated area adjacent to central Tokyo, said ,"Residents have demanded that the Osprey deployment plan be withdrawn."
The Marine Corps already have Ospreys based in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, much to the chagrin of the tiny island's local residents and officials, and the plane's deployment on Japan's mainland will mark the first for the accident-prone aircraft.
Defense analysts here have highlighted the instance of a commander of one of the U.S. Marine Corps two MV-22 Osprey squadrons based in Okinawa being fired in February, owing to a loss of trust in his ability to command.
The U.S. commander was in charge when the fatal accident occurred off the coast of Australia last year.
They noted that his high-profile removal came as tensions here continue to rise amid a recent spate of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft.
Despite the public's ongoing and vehement safety concerns, however, the Japanese government still believes the Osprey's deployment at Yokota will help with domestic and regional stability, its proven unsound performance record, notwithstanding.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK