NAGASAKI — The U.S. Navy conducted a night navigation drill of its Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) in Sasebo Bay on Nov. 7, despite an agreement stating that it would not carry out such exercises at night.
At around 4:30 p.m. on the day, it was confirmed that two LCAC hovercrafts departed from the U.S. Navy’s Yokose facility in Saikai, Nagasaki Prefecture, but did not come back until about 6 p.m, while also making a loud noise in the process.
The Saikai Municipal Government sharply protested to U.S. forces that went ahead with the drill in violation of the agreement.
According to the Kyushu Defense Bureau, the current LCAC drill is planned to take place over a three-day period between Nov. 7 and 9. Under the schedule, two to three LCACs are planned to leave the Yokose facility, conduct the drill in the open sea of Sasebo Bay, and then return after sunset.
In 2013, the LCACs were transferred from the Sakibe facility in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, to the Yokose facility. At the time of the move, the Kyushu Defense Bureau signed an agreement with the Saikai Municipal Government to demand that the U.S. military refrain from conducting nighttime drills, given that the noise causes disturbances to local residents.
On Oct. 30, the U.S. Navy sent an advisory via the Kyushu Defense Bureau to both the Saikai Municipal Government and the Sasebo Municipal Government — which manages the harbor — saying that the drill would take place. However, given that the Saikai Municipal Government accepted the transfer of LCACs to its city in 2013 on the condition that no operations would be conducted at night or early in the morning under the accord with the local defense bureau, it did not accept the U.S. Navy’s request.
“Considering the process of agreeing to accept (having LCACs at the Yokose facility), we cannot accept night navigations drills,” Saikai Mayor Yasuhiko Sugizawa told the Kyushu Defense Bureau. Sugizawa asked that the terms of the agreement be obeyed.
The defense bureau also sent a request to the U.S. Navy’s Sasebo Base on Nov. 7 demanding that the drill be canceled. However, the U.S. Navy refused, explaining that, “The decision was made at a high level within the U.S. Navy, making cancellation difficult.”
Meanwhile, a local 83-year-old resident angrily commented, “At the noisiest times, I couldn’t even hear my own television.”