New U.S. base in Nago will have fortified attack functions

Akahata of December 29 ran a detailed story about a new state-of-the-art U.S. air base to be constructed on the coral reef off the Henoko district of Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture as a replacement for the U.S. Marines Futenma Air Station.

On December 27 the government and Okinawa Prefecture reached an agreement that the giant U.S. military base will be constructed in disregard of the beautiful coast of Henoko, one of the most scenic spots on the east coast of the Okinawa main island. With strengthened military functions it will destroy the natural environment, while negatively affecting the living conditions of the residents.

2,000-meter runway

The December 27 meeting between the central government and Okinawa's local governments reconfirmed that the new base will serve as an airfield for common use by the military and civilians.

The runway will be 2,000 meters long to allow its use by middle-sized commercial jet planes.

A military expert on aviation said that the length is just right for FA18 fighter attackers, F15 fighters, C130 middle-sized cargo aircraft, and the latest model C17 large jet cargo aircraft.

The 1996 agreement of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), deciding on constructing a new base to replace the Futenma Air Station, stated that the runway will be 1,300 meters to accommodate only transport helicopters and aircraft with a short run for landing and take-off.

Under the pretext of making the airfield for common use by the military and civilians, the U.S. forces have obtained a longer runway which can accommodate jet fighters and large jet cargo aircraft.

In the December 27 meeting on 'alternative facilities committee,' Mayor Kishimoto Tateo of Nago City stressed the need to "reserve SACO's agreement," expressing concern that U.S. jet fighters will use the new base.

The SACO agreement, however, put forward a plan to "study the emergency and contingency use of alternate facilities which may be needed in the event of a crisis."

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., U.S. FA-18 fighter attackers have frequently used the U.S. Futenma Air Station, which were hardly seen before. The noise level from their take offs and landings was well over 100 decibels, according to the Ginowan City office.

Mayor Kishimoto also calls for the conclusion of an agreement on the use of the new base to "guarantee that it will not seriously affect the living conditions of residents near the new base site." An assembly member of Nago City who support Kishimoto said, "Once a new jumbo base is accomplished, we won't be able to ask the U.S. Forces to stop using it (Asahi Shimbun, December 28).

Danger of defective MV-22s to be deployed

The U.S. plans to deploy the MV-22 Osprey, a state-of-the-art aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability now under development, to the planned new base.

Last year, two MV-22 crashes during test flights killed a total of 23 crew members. Edward Aldridge, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense, had to admit that the crashes raises serious doubts over its safety and reliability.

The Department, however, announced that it will resume test flights in April. Test flights have been suspended since late last year because of the frequent crashes.

Okinawa Times on December 23 reported that Commander Wallace Greggson of the U.S. 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in Okinawa showed an enthusiastic response to the plan of the Osprey's deployment, saying that it will mean "replacing their aging fleet of conventional helicopters (CH-46) (in Futenma)."

If constructed, the new U.S. base will be a state-of-the-art air sortie base for the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, the only expeditionary unit outside the United States. This means that the U.S. Forces in Okinawa will permanently use the island as its military stronghold. (end)