All Osprey air­craft grounded af­ter crash

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Tokyo

The United States mil­i­tary on Wed­nes­day grounded its tilt-ro­tor MV-22 Osprey air­craft in Ja­pan af­ter Tokyo called for a halt to flights fol­low­ing a crash south­west of Ok­i­nawa is­land, the first ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing the air­craft in the Asian na­tion.

The air­craft has be­come a light­ning rod for op­po­si­tion to the US mil­i­tary pres­ence in Ok­i­nawa, with lo­cal groups seek­ing the clo­sure of US mil­i­tary bases say­ing it is prone to crash and poses a dan­ger to res­i­dents.

A US-op­er­ated Osprey ditched into the sea on Tues­day, in­jur­ing its crew of five af­ter a hose con­nected to the air­craft broke dur­ing a re­fu­el­ing ex­er­cise.

Im­ages of the scene aired by Ja­pan’s pub­lic broad­caster NHK showed the air­craft broke into sev­eral pieces in wa­ters close to the coast.

“No flights in Ja­pan are planned to­day,” said a US Marine Corps spokesman in Ok­i­nawa. The US mil­i­tary was still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cause of the crash, which Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe de­scribed as “very de­plorable” on Wed­nes­day.

Ok­i­nawa Gover­nor Takeshi Onaga, for his part, called the Osprey ac­ci­dent “out­ra­geous”.

The Osprey, built by Boe­ing Co and Tex­tron Inc’s Bell Heli- copter and de­signed to take off like a he­li­copter and ro­tate its pro­pel­lers to fly like a plane, has suf­fered a se­ries of in­ci­dents in other parts of the world be­fore the crash in Ok­i­nawa.

Two squadrons

The US said it has two Osprey squadrons in Ja­pan, al­though it does not dis­close the pre­cise num­ber of air­craft. A squadron typ­i­cally com­prises be­tween 12 to 24 air­craft.

The ac­ci­dent has added to the fury and re­sent­ment of lo­cal peo­ple against the US mil­i­tary pres­ence in Ok­i­nawa as well as the Ja­panese cen­tral govern­ment’s sup­port for such pres­ence, and a num­ber of protests were held around the na­tion.

“It’s re­ally scary to think that the air­craft could have fallen in the pop­u­lated ur­ban area,” said a lo­cal res­i­dent in Ok­i­nawa.

The crash in Ja­pan could fur­ther de­lay plans to re­lo­cate some US forces on the is­land and comes amid a surge in re­sent­ment over US bases af­ter a US civil­ian work­ing for the mil­i­tary was ar­rested this year over the mur­der of a 20-yearold Ja­panese woman.

Ok­i­nawa, which was un­der US oc­cu­pa­tion un­til 1972, hosts the bulk of the ap­prox­i­mately 50,000 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Ja­pan.

KYODO NEWS AGENCY VIA REUTERS

A US sol­dier walks next to the wreckage of a US MV-22 Osprey air­craft in Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan, on Wed­nes­day. The plane crashed on Tues­day.

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