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Japan says U.S. Marine Osprey safe

  |   Sept. 18, 2012 at 11:32 PM
TOKYO, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Japan Wednesday paved the way for the U.S. Marine Corps to use the MV-22 Osprey at its base in Okinawa, saying the vertical takeoff plane is safe.

The government, responding to public concern on the Okinawa Island about the transport aircraft's safety in their skies, said it found no basis for such concerns, Kyodo News reported.

Public opposition in Okinawa to using the aircraft had arisen because of recent crashes involving Osprey models abroad, Kyodo said. There have been protests against the deployment of the Osprey.

The Japanese and U.S. governments already have agreed on operating the Osprey using a number of safety measures, including not flying it below 500 feet from the ground during training, the report said. Flights over nuclear power facilities, historical sites and densely populated areas would be avoided.

Others would require flying the Osprey over sea to the extent possible, minimizing late night and early morning flights, and using the plane's vertical takeoff mode only over U.S. military facilities.

The government announcement was made jointly by Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Kyodo said.

"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 U.S. side to begin operating the Osprey," Morimoto told reporters.

The United States, which already has 12 Ospreys sitting on the ground at the Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi prefecture, could start test flights by the end of the week, the report said.

Defense officials told Kyodo they hope to start full operations of the Osprey at the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa, in October after moving them there.

Kyodo said the U.S. Marines plan to deploy a total of 24 Ospreys at Futenma, replacing the aging CH-46 double-rotor helicopters.

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