Monday, September 23, 2013

On Monday, September 23, 2013 by Luke iMan in , ,    No comments
A plan has been drawn up to improve the maneuverability of the Self-Defense Forces, especially in helping to defend remote islands.

In its budgetary appropriations requests for fiscal 2014, the Defense Ministry has called for ¥100 million in funds to study the feasibility of acquiring MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing transport aircraft.

The ministry is considering incorporating budgetary requests for purchasing Ospreys in its budget estimates for fiscal 2015, with a view to deploying about 20 of the tilt-rotor aircraft with the Ground Self-Defense Force in the next few years.

Ospreys have the combined advantage of taking off and landing like a helicopter and switching to the high-speed performance of fixed-wing aircraft in the air.

Their maximum speed is 520 kph, about twice the speed of CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters. The Osprey has an optimum cargo load of 9.1 tons, about four times that of the CH-46, and a range of 3,900 kilometers, more than five times the Sea Knight’s distance. In addition, the VTOL tilt-rotor aircraft is capable of being refueled in midair, so it can fly even longer distances.

An Osprey with 24 GSDF members aboard, for instance, would be able to reach the Senkaku Islands in about a couple of hours from Nagasaki Prefecture, where elite troops for the defense of remote islands are stationed that would bolster the defense of the Nansei Islands chain significantly.

The GSDF also plans to introduce amphibious vehicles to create a unit similar to the U.S. Marine Corps that would be able to carry out amphibious landings. Besides defending remote islands, such a unit would be highly effective in helping victims of massive disasters and transportation of relief goods.

Deep misunderstanding
The GSDF should strengthen cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, where 23 Ospreys have been deployed, to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between the two forces.

Following the nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands in September last year, Chinese ships have intruded into Japanese territorial waters with alarming frequency. In January, a Chinese naval vessel locked weapons-guided radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the vicinity of the Nansei Islands. The need to beef up warning and surveillance activities in this region has increased significantly.

Regrettably, however, there remains a deep-rooted misunderstanding about the safety of the Ospreys in Okinawa Prefecture and elsewhere. This is due mainly to a number of Osprey crashes that occurred abroad during the first half of last year.

The actual rate of accidents involving Ospreys, however, cannot be said to be high when considering all the other aircraft operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition, the reliability of the Ospreys has improved to such an extent that they even transport high-ranking White House officials.

The GSDF’s planned introduction of Ospreys will boost opportunities to enhance their safety. The Defense Ministry, for its part, should continue to tenaciously explain that the Osprey is safe to local entities and others concerned.

In October, joint Japan-U.S. exercises to take place in Shiga and Okinawa prefectures will include the U.S. military’s Ospreys for the first time in this country.

The joint exercises will act as a front-runner to smoothly introduce Ospreys to the SDF.

Furthermore, conducting exercises outside Okinawa Prefecture will share the prefecture’s excessively heavy burden in hosting U.S. military bases.

It is of great importance to steadily diversify venues for joint Japan-U.S. exercises.
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