Govt eyes base for Osprey maintenance
The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government intends to pursue establishment in Honshu of a regular maintenance site for MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, according to government sources.
The move is aimed at reducing Okinawa Prefecture’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases, and also making facilities available for future use by the Ground Self-Defense Force, which plans to introduce a total of 17 Ospreys from fiscal 2019. However, Japan will likely compete with South Korea, which is also eager to host a regular maintenance facility for Ospreys.
A total of 24 Ospreys have been deployed at Futenma Air Station since 2012. Although the aircraft needs maintenance that requires full dismantling roughly every three years, in addition to other regular maintenance services, there is currently no location in northeast Asia equipped to perform this task. The U.S. military will, therefore, call for international bids as early as this autumn, and decide which company will receive the order for maintenance services.
Ospreys to be introduced by the GSDF will also need the regular maintenance from early 2020. However, maintaining Self-Defense Force aircraft in South Korea is seen as impossible for political reasons. Hence, the government is eager to establish a maintenance base in Japan for Japan-U.S. joint use, which will lead to reduced maintenance costs per aircraft and strengthen collaboration between the two countries.
The maintenance site will be built outside Okinawa Prefecture. There are some options—such as annexing the maintenance site to the U.S. base in Honshu or using SDF camps with sufficient land in the Kanto region. Saga Airport in Saga, where GSDF Ospreys are planned to be deployed, was excluded from the candidate sites for maintenance as construction work for the related facilities cannot be completed within the necessary time frame.
The Defense Ministry has already started to discuss specifics with multiple private firms such as Nippi Corp., a Yokohama-based company with experience of maintaining U.S. military aircraft.