Osprey Planes to Be Deployed at Japan’s Saga Airport following land sale

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An Osprey plane tentatively deployed at GSDF Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture is seen on April 14.

SAGA — Landowners voted Monday to sell to the Defense Ministry about 31 hectares of land necessary for the construction of a stationing post for Ground Self-Defense Force Osprey transport aircraft at Saga Airport in Saga.

The decision was made by a majority vote during an extraordinary general meeting of a management and operation council comprising owners of land where the post is slated to be built. The ministry will shortly sign a purchase agreement and begin constructing the facility.

The ministry initially proposed the plan to station aircraft essential for defending the Nansei Islands to the Saga prefectural government about nine years ago.

Under the plan, the ministry will construct a post on the west side of the airport to host 17 Ospreys. The aircraft will be operated in conjunction with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade based at GSDF Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki Prefecture, which is responsible for defending remote islands.

The planned construction site is located on reclaimed land that is jointly owned by about 250 people, primarily fisherfolk. In March, the ministry offered the landowners a maximum acquisition price of ¥6,031 per square meter.

Following the general meeting, the council chief told reporters that a two-thirds majority required for the sale had been met. Of the 239 votes cast, 184 favored selling, 49 were against and six were invalid.

Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi announced his acceptance of the ministry’s July 2014 proposal in August 2018.

Last November, the Saga Prefecture Fishery Cooperative Federation gave its approval for the plan, even though it had voiced concerns about the impact of wastewater from the envisaged post on nori seaweed cultivation. Since then, the landowners’ response has been a focus of debate.

The Osprey transport planes have been tentatively deployed at GSDF Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture and will remain there until July 2025 due to the delay in deploying to Saga Airport.