(Akahata: February 22, 2016 – p. 3)
Yokota Base in Tokyo, the location of the U.S. Forces Japan headquarters, is being transformed. “The coordination office” between the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) was established on the base to implement the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and the war legislation. With the special operations aircraft CV-22 Osprey scheduled for permanent deployment to the base in the near future, Yokota is becoming a “base from which to launch attacks.” Residents of the base-hosting communities voice opposition. “We don’t need Yokota as a base from which to wage war.”
Residents suffer from expanded flight training
“Night flight training” by C130 transport airplanes stationed at the Yokota Base was repeatedly conducted between 06:15 p.m. and 09:00 p.m. On one day aircraft circled above Akiruno City.
Akiruno City is located well beyond the area surrounding the Yokota runway (3,353 meters long) where aircraft noise is the most intense. Therefore, the city receives no compensation despite its suffering from aircraft noise on account of expanded flight training.
Night, low-altitude, and turning maneuvers by C130s became more intense after the establishment of the new Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) Yokota base in 2012. In addition, the number of airplanes coming from other bases is sharply increasing. Fourteen F22 stealth and six F16 fighters arrived at the base between Jan. 20 and 26, which surprised residents of the base-hosting communities. The Defense Ministry gave no prior notification of their arrival to local municipal governments.
“After the Vietnam War, Yokota Base has been used for logistics and transportation, “said Mieko Takahashi, the head of the “Nishitama Association Calling for the Removal of the Yokota Base.” “There has never before been this many fighters at Yokota,” she continued. “The arrival of the fighters clearly shows both the Japanese and the U.S. governments’ intention to transform Yokota into a base for offensive operations.”
Osprey and special operations unit to be deployed at Yokota
The U.S. government announced last year that ten CV-22 Ospreys in total, three by late 2017 and seven more by 2021, will be deployed at the Yokota Base with 430 personnel. Residents of the base-hosting communities voiced opposition because the Osprey has been involved in accidents claiming 41 lives in the past.
The Osprey is used for parachute training. A unit in Alaska began parachute training from the Osprey in January 2012. The training was also conducted at Yokota by a special operations force from Okinawa. About 2,000 soldiers in total conducted parachute training at Yokota for four years until 2015.
“The parent organization of the CV-22 unit, which is scheduled for deployment at Yokota, is the U.S. Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Base,” said Iwao Ishikawa, a military analyst with a focus on U.S. Forces Japan. “The group has a dozen or so special operations aircraft such as the MC130 Combat Talon,” continued Ishikawa. “Its mission is transporting troops to and from areas behind enemy lines. The CV-22 is a junior aircraft of the MC-130.”
The CV-22 Osprey’s airframe is the same as that of the U.S. Marine Corps’ twenty-four MV-22s deployed in Okinawa, but the CV-22 is equipped with special devices.
While studying English documents on the Osprey, Ishikawa came across this passage in the 2009 General Accounting Office report: “The Osprey is currently prohibited from flying in areas where congelation can be anticipated, because the anti-icing device is subject to malfunctions and the airplane is not equipped with weather radar.”
After Oct. 18 the Osprey did not fly to wintry regions on mainland Japan, but a total of six aircraft made four flights to temperate Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture in December and January.
Maintenance depot for F35 to be established adjacent to Yokota
In December 2014, the U.S. government announced that regional maintenance depots for F35A stealth fighters in the Asia and Pacific region will be established in Australia and Japan. Following this announcement, Washington stated that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Komaki-Minami factory in Aichi Prefecture) will be responsible for airframe maintenance, whereas IHI Mizuho (former Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries) adjacent to the Yokota Base will perform engine maintenance. Currently, IHI’s new five-story factory is under construction (to be completed at the end of March) with an exclusive gate connecting the factory and the base.
The Defense Ministry is planning to procure forty-two F35 fighters. Other allied countries of the U.S. are also proceeding to procure the fighter. Nearly 3,000 F35s in total across the world are expected to be purchased.
Last September, the Japanese Communist Party disclosed an internal JSDF document in which Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano of the Joint Staff said: “Establishing a regional depot for the F35 in Japan was an important decision to enhance interoperability. We hope a regional depot for the Osprey will also be established in Japan.”
“Once the maintenance depot begins operations, more F35 fighters will inevitably arrive at Yokota from various bases in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Kazutada Tsuruta, secretary-general of “the Nishitama Association to Call for the Removal of the Yokota Base.”
Japan-U.S. alliance as part of waging war
“Yokota is America’s political control center, with close connections to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Pacific Command headquarters (Hawaii), U.S. Forces Japan headquarters and the SDF Joint Staff,” said Isao Naito, a lawyer and representative of the Japan Peace Committee.
Based on the realignment plan of the U.S. Forces Japan decided by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (known as 2 Plus 2) in October 2005, the ASDF Yokota Base was newly established (2012) and “the Bilateral Joint Operations Coordination Center” (BJOCC) was set up,” said the Japan Peace Committee’s Naito. “This created a framework for the U.S. military and the SDF to seamlessly share information and cooperate with each other in “peacetime” and “wartime.” The SDF’s Air Defense Command headquarters is located across the courtyard from the U.S. Forces Japan headquarters. “The coordination office” was placed in the basement of the SDF headquarters where the U.S. military and the SDF members work face to face.
“The Abe administration accelerated the deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance and that is reflected at Yokota Base,” said the Nishitama Association’s Takahashi. “Through the struggle to abolish the war legislation via a campaign that collected 2 million signatures, we will make the public aware of the danger of the Japan-U.S. alliance that will involve our nation in war.” (Abridged)