A squadron of hybrid aircraft from the United States Air Force will be stationed at the Yokota Air Base in Japan to enable special operations troops to respond quickly to crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
The first three variants of the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey will arrive at the US base on the outskirts of Tokyo in the last half of 2017, Reuters reported Tuesday.
An additional seven are due to arrive by 2021, the report said, citing a Pentagon statement.
The Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter then rotates its propellers to fly like a plane, had a reputation for technical difficulties and safety problems during its development phase in the 1990s.
Since then, it has largely overcome the issues but crashes during training exercises in Morocco and Florida in early 2012 exacerbated Japanese concerns about the planes.
The Pentagon said the Ospreys in Yokota will enable US special forces troops to respond quickly to disasters and other crises in Japan and the broader Asia-Pacific region as part of the US strategic rebalance to the region.
Some in Japan have opposed use of the V-22 due to safety concerns.
The Marine Corps move to replace its Sea Knight helicopters at Futenma air base in Okinawa with V-22 Ospreys in 2012 prompted a public outcry on the island as well as in communities in mainland Japan that host US bases.
Leon Panetta, the defense secretary at the time, helped secure a decision to permit flights of the aircraft over Japan in September 2013, and Ospreys from Okinawa flew over much of mainland Japan during 2014, a US defense official said.
The Japanese government decided late last year to acquire its own V-22s. Sources familiar with the program said Japan was interested in 20 to 40 of the aircraft.
– Contact us at [email protected]