U.S. Osprey aircraft arrive at Tokyo base amid public protests
TOKYO, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Five CV-22 Osprey aircraft arrived at the U.S. military's Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo despite public opposition, local media reported Thursday.
Deployment of the CV-22 Ospreys at the Yokota base will mark the first for the accident-prone aircraft on Japan's mainland.
Ikuo Kato, mayor of Fussa city which is one of the municipalities hosting the Yokota base, told local media that he was surprised at the sudden decision to deploy the Ospreys at Yokota.
He said that he will ask the central government and the U.S. military to take safety measures due to the aircraft's controversial safety records.
The U.S. 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.
The five Ospreys were unloaded from ship at the U.S. Army's Yokohama North Dock a day earlier and flew to the Yokota Air Base Thursday after examination.
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.
The sudden, unexpected deployment 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 tilt-rotor aircraft were expected to be formally deployed in the summer, much earlier than the previously announced U.S. fiscal year through September 2020.
Dozens of local residents, meanwhile, rallied in front of the U.S. base Thursday to protest against the planned deployment of the controversial planes, holding banners with slogans such as "Ospreys NO."