Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, indicated Monday the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo is a possible host of the CV-22 Osprey transport aircraft besides the Kadena base in Okinawa Prefecture.
Speaking to a group of reporters in Washington, Carlisle said discussions on the deployment are under way with the Japanese government and the final decision would be made probably by early next year with the deployment possibly taking place in 2015.
If realized, this will be the first stationing of the Osprey in mainland Japan. The CV-22 is an Air Force variant of the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 aircraft. A fleet of MV-22 has been deployed at the Marines' Futenma air station in Okinawa since last year, despite local residents' opposition because of the plane's history of accidents.
Carlisle said that "there's some issues with Kadena and Okinawa" and cited the recent national election in Japan in which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party scored a decisive victory and Abe's "approach to things." Carlisle said that "we work with the government of Japan of what's the smartest way to do that."
"There's a potential of moving into Yokota" and Yokota and Kadena are "the two prime candidates," the commander said.
The CV-22 is used by the Air Force for special operation missions. While it shares basic features with MV-22, the CV-22 is said to be used often in tougher conditions such as low-altitude flights. In June last year, crew members were injured in a crash of a CV-22 in Florida. Okinawa Prefecture has expressed its stance that it cannot accommodate the aircraft.
Carlisle also indicated that the Global Hawk drones in Guam would be moved temporarily to the Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture in Japan next year.
"We've looked at moving them up to Misawa because of the weather," he said, adding that they are continuing to work that with the Japanese government. The plan would be to move the fleet next year during the bad weather season from Guam, where typhoons mar operations in summer, according to him.