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Air Force Ospreys make unscheduled landing on southern Japanese island

An Australian sailor guides a U.S. MV-22B Osprey as it takes off from HMAS Canberra in the Pacific Ocean, July 13, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps)

A pair of Air Force CV-22 Ospreys made an unscheduled landing on a southern Japanese island Monday after a warning light came on in one of the tiltrotor aircraft.

The 353rd Special Operations Squadron Ospreys, which departed Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, landed at Amami Airport in Kagoshima prefecture at about 3 p.m., a Kyushu Defense Bureau spokesman said on Tuesday.

There were no injuries or damage to the aircraft, he added.

One of the Ospreys flew on to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, but the other was still at Amami on Tuesday, the spokesman said.

Five CV-22s arrived at Yokota — home to U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force — in early April, but departed soon after for training that officials said would last several months. They were back at the base again last week for a short break before resuming training elsewhere in the region, the service said.

The aircraft — which can take off like helicopters, then tilt their rotors to fly long distances as fixed-wing planes — have attracted intense interest in Japan.

Activists have focused on accidents, including an emergency landing by a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey in waters off Okinawa in 2016. The service operates 24 MV-22Bs out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the southern island prefecture.

Last week, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera expressed concern about Osprey safety after a report blamed heavy downwash for an MV-22 crash off Australia that killed three Marines last summer.

A Special Operations squadron of 10 Ospreys was due at Yokota in 2020; however, that schedule was adjusted and five of the aircraft arrived in April with little notice. Protestors soon gathered outside the base, calling for them to leave.

On Monday, officials from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and six cities near Yokota wrote a letter addressed to Onodera, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Kenneth Moss expressing concern about Osprey safety. They also called on the Air Force and Japanese government to provide more information on the deployment and to ensure that the aircraft were operated safely.

“There are concerns among the residents living near the base by the sudden announcement of the deployment schedule being advanced and repeated visits by the Ospreys while there are safety concerns since there have been repeated accidents and emergency landings within and outside of Japan,” the letter said.

The local governments urged the airlift wing and Japanese government officials to provide a deployment schedule as early as possible as well as to assign experienced and well-certified crew and maintenance personnel to the aircraft.

They also called for Ospreys to use the same flight route as other aircraft and to change to and from helicopter and airplane mode in the airspace over the base.

Locals asked that the Ospreys fly above 500 feet, and that they be notified ahead of any training involving the aircraft.

Stars and Stripes correspondent Seth Robson contributed to this report.


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