WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. squadron of special operations CV-22 Osprey aircraft are to be based in Japan beginning in 2017, the Department of Defense announced on Monday.
Three of the tiltrotor aircraft will arrive at Yokota Air Base in the second half of 2017, with an additional seven planes to arrive by 2021.
"The deployment of tilt-rotor aircraft will provide increased capability for U.S. Special Operations forces to respond quickly to crises and contingencies in Japan and across the Asia-Pacific region, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters," the Pentagon said. "It will also increase interoperability, enhance operational cooperation, and promote stronger defense relations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
"The deployment reflects the United States' steadfast commitment to defend Japan and to station its most advanced capabilities forward as part of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance."
Word of the upcoming deployment of special operations configured V-22s comes amid continuing tensions between China and a number of countries in Asia, including Japan, over sovereignty of disputed islands and reefs in the region.
The V-22 Osprey, operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, is primarily a transport aircraft in its conventional variant and can be armed. Made by Bell Boeing, it can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a fixed-wing aircraft.