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Japan, U.S. hold joint military exercise with Osprey, first joint drill since Dec. crash

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨Xinhua

03-13-2017 21:24 BJT

TOKYO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Four controversial Osprey aircraft took part in a joint drill between Japan and the United States in Niigata Prefecture on Monday, in the largest such exercise to be held by the aircraft so far in Japan.

As many as six MV-22 Ospreys, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a regular fixed-winged plane, will join the drills from a U.S. base in Okinawa, local media reported.

The joint exercise between Japan and the U.S., which began on March 6 and will conclude on Friday in Niigata, involves a contingent of 750 troops from the Ground Self-Defense Force's Camp Somagahara.

The drill marks the first time the plane has been used in a joint exercise since an Osprey crashed in waters off Nago, near the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab, in Okinawa, on Dec. 13 last year.

The incident, which saw five crew members airlifted to safety and then subsequently treated for injuries, involved an MV-22 Osprey making a "shallow landing" according to U.S. military accounts.

The crash marked the the first major accident involving an Osprey since its deployment in Japan in 2012.

The crashed plane was based in Futenma, Okinawa, and occurred at a time when Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force has earmarked plans to add around 17 Osprey aircraft units, each of which can carry 24 combat troops, to its fleet, with flights expected to be made from 2019.

The planes' safety record was firmly called into question here by local officials and citizens following an MV-22B Osprey crashing in Hawaii in 2015, leaving two dead and 20 more injured.

In August 2013, concerns about the plane were initially stoked when four crew members narrowly escaped injury when a Marine Corps' Osprey made a "hard landing" near the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, in the United States.

Prior to that, in April 2012, an Osprey crashed in Morocco and killed two Marines and another crash in Florida in June 2012 injured all five crew members.

In 2010, an Air Force CV-22, each of which costs around 100 million U.S. dollars, touched down short of its landing zone in Afghanistan, hit a ditch, and flipped over, killing four people.

Dozens of Marines lost their lives in several crashes, including 19 in a single accident in Arizona, in 2000, during the Osprey's developmental phase, launching the plane's checkered safety record.

The planes are also known for creating an unbearable amount of noise due to their massive turboprop engines.

A court in Japan handed down a ruling in October 2015 ordering the state to pay 558 million yen (4.87 million U.S. dollars) in damages to residents over excessive noise from aircraft stationed at the Iwakuni base.

The base is jointly used by the U.S. military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the Chugoku region on Japan's main island of Honshu.

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