TOKYO — Japan’s first Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft are ready for delivery, but a dispute over where they will be based is holding up the process.
Speaking to Defense News at the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition in Tokyo, retired Lt. Gen. George Trautman, a former U.S. Marine aviator and commander of all Marine Corps aviation who now works as an adviser for Bell, said “four or five” of the tilt rotors are ready for delivery at Patuxent River in the United States.
However, the Japanese government, which reportedly hoped to bring the aircraft into Japan this month, has run into opposition by local governments and residents near the planned Osprey base, due to fears over what they claim is the aircraft’s poor safety record.
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force plans to temporarily base its Ospreys at Camp Kisarazu near Tokyo while it constructs additional facilities at Saga Airport near the city of Nagasaki, which is expected to become the permanent base of Japan’s tilt rotors.
This plan ran into opposition with local residents living near Camp Kisarazu, even though the base is already the site of a maintenance depot for American Ospreys based in Japan, and specifically Okinawa.
Other than the basing issue, Trautman said that the program is going well, adding that 13 or 17 aircraft are under contract with Japan and the aircraft are on Bell’s production line. The budget for the remaining four aircraft has been approved, and they are expected to be contracted sometime before the end of Japan’s current fiscal year, which ends in March 2019.
When asked if Japan was keen on acquiring more Ospreys, Trautman told Defense News there was “no formal dialogue” beyond the 17 aircraft for Japan.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.