The U.S. Special Operations CV-22 Osprey aircraft deployed to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo have reportedly been seen flying with their machine guns pointing downwards towards residential areas for nearly a year, starting in June 2018.
Hamura Heiwa Iinkai (Hamura Peace Committee) confirmed to Mainichi Shimbun that 40 aircraft were observed flying in such a position. The group said that there was even a month in which there were seven such sightings.
Once a CV-22 Osprey corps was established on July 1, 2019, the number of the sightings became even more frequent. Between July 3 and 11, a total of nine such flights were confirmed.
Although the issue was addressed in the House of Councillors Audit Committee in May 2019, it remains unresolved. Former Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya had said that he was not aware of the details of how the Ospreys were being operated, but added that he would like to "seek the maximum level of consideration for safety from the U.S. side."
“We must not allow (the U.S. military) to use the skies above our residential areas as training grounds, and our neighborhoods as targets. It is not permissible for the U.S. military to do whatever it pleases, and the Japanese government must stand up for itself and deal with the situation,” Hamura committee's chief, Mieko Takahashi, said.
In a written statement to the outlet, U.S. Forces Japan said, “the regular flying configuration for the CV-22 Osprey does include a weapon secured at the rear of the plane in a safe position with no ammunition. All our air operations are conducted in accordance with the relevant agreements and regulations between the United States government and the Government of Japan. We make every effort to minimize our impact to local communities while ensuring we maintain proficiency in our flight operations for the defense of Japan.”