Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has decided to delay the deployment of the first five of 17 Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft it has ordered from the United States amid fierce local opposition.
“The date of the shipment has yet to be decided as we are negotiating with Saga Prefecture the deployment of the [first five] aircraft,” Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Nemuro City, Hokkaido, on 23 September during an inspection of Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) units.
Tokyo ordered the first five MV-22Bs for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) in July 2015 for USD332.5 million, with deliveries initially expected to take place during the autumn of 2018. The plan was to temporarily deploy the tiltrotors to the JGSDF’s Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo while the MoD discussed with the local community where the aircraft would ultimately be based in Saga Prefecture.
In August Yoshinori Yamaguchi, the governor of Saga Prefecture, had announced that the prefectural government would accept the deployment of the aircraft to Saga Airport on Kyushu Island. However, local fishery co-operatives remain strongly opposed to the move.
Japanese media has reported that negotiations between the prefectural government and the local co-operatives will only begin in the spring of 2019 (or perhaps even later) as the parties involved seek to review the pollution prevention agreement on the dual use of Saga Airport by commercial airlines and the JSDF.
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