The central government’s plan to station Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at Saga Airport poses no problem for the local commercial airstrip, Gov. Yasushi Furukawa said Monday.
The Defense Ministry has notified the Saga Prefectural Government, which runs the airport, that the deployment of Self-Defense Forces aircraft — including 17 Ospreys its plans to procure — starting in fiscal 2019 “won’t be an impediment to its utilization and development as a civilian airport now or in the near future,” Furukawa said at a news conference.
“The prefectural government is basically working to accept” the Ospreys, he said afterward, while stressing that his comments should not be taken as final consent for the move.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration plans to station the controversial transport aircraft in Saga, where they would be used to ferry a planned amphibious unit from neighboring Nagasaki Prefecture to defend remote islands.
The Osprey’s spotty accident record has raised safety concerns among the Japanese public.
Along with the deployment, the government also asked Saga in July whether it can host training exercises for Ospreys currently based at the Futenma base in Okinawa as part of efforts to lessen the military burden on that prefecture.
The Defense Ministry has allotted roughly ¥10.9 billion in its draft budget request for fiscal 2015 for necessary construction work at Saga Airport.