Tokyo, Aug 8 (IANS) Okinawa Deputy Governor Moritake Tomikawa on Tuesday lodged a protest with the US for flying an Osprey in the Japanese prefecture just days after one of the accident-prone planes crashed off Australia.
Tomikawa’s protest followed the Japanese government asking the US to stop flying Ospreys in Japan, but the US in response flew the controversial tilt-rotor plane from the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.
The plane flew from the same base as the MV-22 Osprey that crashed off Australia on Saturday, killing three US Marines.
Tomikawa met the top commander of the US forces in Okinawa to lodge a protest and expressed the residents’ growing concern over the planes’ increasingly checkered safety record.
The Deputy Governor’s concerns were dismissed by the top commander of the US forces in Okinawa, Lt. General Lawrence Nicholson, who said: “Ospreys are flying around the world. It is the (US) military’s policy.”
Tomikawa said the ambivalent attitude of the US military was angering.
“From the viewpoint of Okinawa, it is unbearable and I cannot help but get angry. I was not able to get any convincing answers,” Tomikawa said.
The US Naval Safety Centre categorised the Osprey’s crash off Australia as “Class A”.
Exasperation at the US military’s continued use of Ospreys in Japan hit a fever pitch following an Osprey making an emergency landing in the prefecture in June, with residents still in fear after the crash landing of one of the planes in waters off Nago near the US Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab last December.
The incident, which saw five crew members airlifted to safety and then subsequently treated for injuries, involved an MV-22 Osprey making a “shallow landing”, according to US military accounts.
The crash marked the first major accident involving an Osprey since its deployment in Japan in 2012 and had Okinawan officials vehemently call for the planes to be withdrawn from Japan.
Prior to these accidents, Ospreys have been involved in multiple crashes around the world leading to numerous fatalities, dating back to the plane’s developmental phase in 2000.