May 11 (UPI) -- The first two tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys helicopters for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have arrived at USMC Air Station Iwakumi, Japan.
The aircraft, delivered Friday, are the first of five Ospreys the JGSD ordered in 2015 at a cost of $332 million, with 12 more planned purchases -- part of the JSDF plan to improve its amphibious and naval warfare capabilities -- according to the Marine Corps.
Plans to move the new aircraft to Kisarazu Air Field in northern Japan have not been delayed by restrictions on outdoor activities caused by the coronavirus pandemic, officials say.
Several of the helicopters will eventually be stationed aboard the 813-foot JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier with a planned future conversion to an aircraft carrier.
The two Ospreys delivered Friday will be the first to be used by a foreign country.
More than 200 have been built by Bell-Boeing and used by the U.S. Marines, Navy and Air Force, although Israel, India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have considered purchasing them.
The helicopter is a multirole combat aircraft with the vertical performance of a helicopter and the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft due to its tiltrotor design. With rotors in vertical position, it behaves like a helicopter, but can convert to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight, filling a unique niche in aircraft operation.
The unloading of the helicopters on Friday was met with a protest by about 20 people. Crashes in Japan of U.S. military Ospreys have provoked strong opposition to the aircraft, and JDSF plans to station the Japanese aircraft at Saga Airport in Kyushu Prefecture were cancelled after local landowners refused to cooperate.
Kisarazu Air field was chosen as a temporary location to house the Ospreys.