By Tsuyoshi Sato
The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni (Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) is planning to newly construct a pier for unloading jet fuel from tankers, Akahata learned on May 21. In March last year about 60 carrier-based planes including F/A-18E /F Hornets were relocated to the base from the U.S. Navy Atsugi base (Kanagawa Prefecture). With a total of 120 U.S. military airplanes deployed at the base, Iwakuni is now the largest base in the Far East and the strengthening of its infrastructure is proceeding accordingly.
The U.S. military plans to construct a pier inside the breakwater to the east of the runway at the southern end of the base. It will build a loading and unloading facility with two mooring posts, four pile dolphins, and four marine loading arms for unloading fuel. The facility will be capable of unloading “JP-5” jet fuel from a mid-sized tanker. The U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps will use the fuel.
The U.S. military will construct a 60,000-gallon fuel storage tank and build a pipeline for the transport of unloaded fuel. A vessel chartered by the U.S. government will also be used for fuel storage.
The plan was revealed through contract information released by the U.S. Army Corps Engineer, Japan District, which is in charge of constructing U.S. military facilities in Japan. The U.S. Army Corps solicited contractors to participate in a market survey on contract price and technology and capabilities for carrying out the project with a deadline of May 21. The project will cost between 5 billion and 10 billion yen. After the survey, the Army Corps will announce the project in July. It aims to conclude a contract in March 2020.
After the U.S. forces relocated carrier-borne airplanes to the Iwakuni base last year, field carrier landing practice and low-altitude flight training have intensified both during daytime and at night near the base-hosting communities, impacting residents’ lives.
In 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps deployed a squadron of 16 state-of-the-art F-35Bs. The F-35B is a short takeoff/vertical landing fighter. The Marines plan to replace their 12 F/A-18D Hornets with the 16 F-35Bs in fiscal 2021. It is rumored that the U.S. Navy may replace the F/A18-E/F with the F-35C.
The CV-22 Osprey, a special operations airplane of the U.S. Air Force, is deployed to the Yokota base (Tokyo). The MV-22 Osprey of the U.S. Marine Corps is deployed to the Futenma base (Okinawa Prefecture). These planes also frequently fly to the Iwakuni base to conduct low-altitude flight training training in various places. In response to an increasing number of airplanes including carrier-borne planes, the base is strengthening its logistics capabilities to meet required fuel consumption.