Relocation of carrier-based aircraft to Iwakuni gains momentum

by Koji Yamamoto, Senior Staff Writer

The deployment of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, to Japan for the first time represents one more step toward the relocation of carrier-based aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni. This move, which is scheduled to be completed in 2014, is part of the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan and is a matter of concern for all residents of the Chugoku Region, not just Iwakuni.

The relocation of carrier-based aircraft to Iwakuni is intended to shift some of the load off Kanagawa Prefecture, whose burden increased with the stationing of the nuclear-powered carrier there, and to reduce the amount of aircraft noise experienced by the 2.6 million people who live in the vicinity of Atsugi Naval Air Station in the prefecture. In order to fulfill its promises to the local community and the U.S. government, the Japanese government has had to speed up the relocation of the carrier-based aircraft to Iwakuni.

Iwakuni is less than 30 minutes from the heart of the Korean peninsula by fighter plane. The number of aircraft stationed there will be doubled to about 120, and they will be able to operate over a wide area from the nuclear-powered carrier, which does not require refueling. As a result, Iwakuni’s military presence in the Far East will be dramatically enhanced by the relocation. In the future the base will be exposed to changes occurring on a global scale, including those along the so-called “arc of instability” from East Asia to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, in order to determine the ideal airspace for twice as many aircraft and one that is suitable for the training goals of the carrier-based unit, it is highly likely that prior to the relocation to Iwakuni the number of flights by the U.S. military over the Chugoku Region will increase and that there will be flights over areas where none has taken place previously. This matter demands the attention of all the municipalities and residents of the Chugoku Region, not just those in mountain or coastal areas.

(Originally published on September 26, 2008)

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