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The Hokkoku Shimbun, Japan

Osprey Training Flights: Hashimoto Proposal
Is Catalyst To Locate Suitable Sites

By Editorial

Translated By Nathan Takase

7 June 2013

Edited by Philip Lawler

Japan - The Hokkoku Shimbun - Original Article (Japanese)

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who co-heads the Japan Restoration Party, recently proposed that some of the training flights for the new U.S. military Osprey transport helicopters be hosted at the Yao Airport located in Yao, Osaka. This proposal is meaningful in that it is potentially a step toward reducing the military base burden endured by Okinawa. Yao Airport is located in an urban area, and while getting locals to support such a move would be difficult, the proposal could act as a catalyst to look at potential locations for the Osprey training flights on a countrywide level.

Reducing the burden on Okinawa tends to receive a lot of general support. However, no one wants to actually sacrifice their own interests. Backlash against the Hashimoto proposal has already spread among locals near the Yao Airport, and Yao Mayor Seita Tanaka has expressed opposition, noting that it would carry a “high risk.” Even if the locals agreed with the plan, it is unclear whether the U.S. military would consider the site suitable.

If we were serious about dispersing the Osprey training flights, it would make sense for the government to initiate talks between the U.S. military and Ministry of Defense, and then proceed to discussions with local governments after determining a number of potential locations. Depending on the outcome of discussions with the locals, dispersion of the training flights may become a possibility. Since it’s inconceivable that a local government with an airport would voluntarily choose to be a potential training site, the national government would need to determine optimal locations.

Operation of the Osprey is difficult, and numerous accidents during the development phase earned it the nickname “the Widowmaker.” However, since then it has seen many improvements and increases in safety — its major accident rate of 1.93 accidents per 100,000 flight hours is even lower than the Marine aircraft average of 2.45. It’s safe to say that it is safer than the older CH-46 transport helicopters still being used.

At present, these machines are flying the New York and London skies on a daily basis, and there have been demonstration flights at air shows with onlookers numbering in the tens of thousands. On the contrary, the continued use of aging helicopters presents an even greater safety issue, and it’s hard to understand the singular focus on the risks associated with Ospreys.

Compared to CH-46 transport helicopters, used for over 40 years now, the Osprey is twice as fast, can carry three times the weight, and can travel 5.5 times further. There is no doubt that deployment of these machines in Okinawa or other areas is beneficial in enhancing the rapid-response capabilities of the U.S. military.



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