Tokyo: The Japanese government today gave a postive safety nod to US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft which was to be deployed at an air base in Okinawa Prefecture and is safe to fly in Japanese skies adding that it has found no basis for thinking they are dangerous.
The Japanese and US governments agreed earlier in the day on a set of measures to ensure the Osprey's safe operation,centered on altitude restrictions applied to low-altitude flight training involving the transport aircraft. The declaration, jointly announced by Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, comes as opposition to the aircraft's use remains strong in Okinawa, due mainly to concern stemming from recent crashes involving Ospreys overseas.
The Marines will begin test flights soon, possibly by the end of this week, at the Iwakuni Air Station in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, where 12 Ospreys remain on the ground after being shipped from the United States in July, according to defense officials.
They also hope to start full operations of the Osprey aircraft which can take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like an airplane at the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa, in October, after moving them there.
"On the premise that this (agreement) will be sincerely observed and maximum care be taken for the people with regard to flight safety, the government has confirmed the Osprey's operational safety and decided to allow the US side to begin operating the Osprey," Morimoto told reporters.
Morimoto is scheduled to visit Yamaguchi later today to seek acceptance from Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda and Yamaguchi Gov. Shigetaro Yamamoto for the newly devised measures and for starting test flights at the Marine base there.He is also considering visiting Okinawa on a separate occasion.
Despite the central government's safety declaration, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima remains opposed to the Osprey deployment at the Marine base, which is situated in a densely populated area. "We don't think they are safe," the governor told.
"Moreover, they are bringing them to such a dense area. It's just incomprehensible." Among the measures agreed at the Japan-US Joint Committee involving foreign and defense officials from both countries is one requiring Ospreys not to fly roughly 150 meters above ground level during low-altitude flight training planned across the country.

Such a restriction normally does not apply to US military aircraft. Flights above nuclear power facilities, historic sites and congested areas are also to be avoided under the measures, which limit short-distance, low-altitude tight formation flights to the boundary of US military facilities and zones as much as possible.


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