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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Recent US Military Aircraft Crash Makes Japan Antsy

Read that headline? Sounds ominous, huh? US military aircraft must be plummeting into houses, bicycle repair shops and soaplands throughout Japan for the whole country to be 'antsy'.

They aren't, but they still are.

Now... I may get a bit sarcastic here...

Because of a recent crash of a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (see awesome Wikimedia photograph above) that looks like a helicopter, but can also alter its wing shape to look like an airplane, Japan is all in a hubbub about aircraft falling from the sky and killing its populace in Okinawa.

Really? Planes and copters go down all the time - even without ammunition helping it. Sad but true. Sometimes they go down over residential areas. Sad but true, again.

But, in this case, Japan has allowed the US to maintain a military presence on its islands since WWII, but nowadays, its to provide a buffer of protection against possible incursions by pushy countries like the USSR and China. Waitaminute... the USSR is no more. We won! Russia? Okay... Russia. Kind of like a smaller version of the USSR, right?

Anyhow... the Japan defense ops scrambled their aircraft 427 times beginning in fiscal 2011, over a one-year-period. See HERE.

Let's look at the recent Osprey crashes:

Last week, all five airmen aboard an Air Force CV-22 Osprey were hospitalized after their aircraft crashed in Florida on a training mission at Eglin Air Force Base. The cause is in under investigation.

This crash comes two months after a Marine Corps version of the aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, went down during a training exercise in Morocco. Two Marines were killed and two others severely injured.

You will note that both crashes occurred in countries not Japan: the U.S. and Morocco. Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife doffs his caps to the families of these airmen, and hope that the deaths of their loved ones did not inconvenience any Japanese people with their unplanned deaths. 

Now perhaps I am being overly sarcastic - after all, I am basing my comments on a story written by an Associated Press story that I saw in the Bradenton Herald on June 22, 2012 - HERE, so maybe Japan isn't really all that pissed off about the possibility of falling aircraft landing on their grassy gravely backyards. 

In fact, a quick perusal of the story  - go ahead and read it! - shows that there are only two direct quotes: one from the US Pentagon press secretary; and the other from a national lawmaker from Okinawa.

Whoa... way to back up the story AP!

Okay... there is a mention (but no direct quote) that the Okinawa governor is against the deployment, and blanket statement from the Iwakuni-shi city assembly (not a named individual) stating that the accidents have caused "great worry to citizens and great confusion in the city."

Really? How the hell would we know? How about some comments from locals saying how worried they are! How about having someone explain HOW there is great confusion in the City of Iwakuni!

Way to fan the flames of a mediocre complaint, AP! It appears to be a mediocre complaint because you haven't backed up your statements!

Now... there aren't any Osprey aircraft in Japan at the moment, so Japan being in an uproar about an aircraft crashing possibly, either makes Japan look like a whining crybaby or makes the Associated Press look like it is not interested in presenting real news.

Hey - AP! Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife may be light and breezy and offer stories as fluffy as background on Miss Universe Japan contestants, advice on how to date Japanese women, but we (meaning me) always try and present a clear picture for the reader... and you know what? I don't get paid to do it. I spend hours of my day putting together a story after I spend hours of my day at work doing other writing.

Rant over.... the AP story says that US officials would talk to Japanese reps in Washington, DC on June 22, 2012 to reassure them that there is nothing mechanically wrong with the Osprey.

Oh goodie... read between the lines.... if it's not mechanical, that means you can name pilot error as the cause. Which, if we feel like it, can be traced back to either real pilot error or poor-training offered by the US military or perhaps even by the aircraft's manufacturer.

Or perhaps, it's not pilot error or mechanical, but rather a design flaw... but then if that was true, surely the US military would ground its fleet and not deploy the Osprey to Japanese bases in Okinanwa and Iwakuni.

The Osprey is an awesome looking machine. See HERE for some facts and figures. It has been used on combat missions by the United Nations, United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Associated Press article, "Japan's top government spokesman said last week the plan to deploy the aircraft to Japan this year couldn't move forward until Tokyo received assurances of its safety."

Who the hell is Japan's top government spokesman? Does he have a name? Could he not provide a direct quote?

Oh well... at least we get a direct quote from the U.S. Pentagon: "The Osprey is a highly capable aircraft with an excellent operational safety record," Pentagon press secretary George Little said.

Right... so shut up, Japan. Or whomever it is that is causing all of these problems for the US who only want to protect you from the rest of the world - maybe even Canada!

Now, because you all know that back in April, the US has agreed to move 9,000 military personnel from Okinawa to someplace not Okinawa, Japan is finally starting to feel like Japan again for the first time since WWII when it was attacking pretty much any country whose population possesses an epicanthic fold over the eye.

Hey?Does anybody remember the U.S protectorate country of Hawaii that just so happened to have a US military base called Pearl Harbor on it? While Hawaii was not quite or rather not really a part of the US proper, still, bombing a military installation or an embassy is like attacking the whole country.

Not to make light of Pearl Harbor, but it was the effing wake-up call the US needed to get its lazy ass involved into WWII which had begun two years and three months earlier for the rest of the world.

Anyhow... I'm all over the damn place in this editorial. I was going to write a news piece based on the AP story, but dammit, it was pretty loosey-goosey and raised far too many questions for me to actually feel comfortable in presenting it to you in the form of a social media blog.

Back again from philosophizing.

Here's the story:
1) Japan while appreciating the military might of the US to protect its borders, does NOT care for the drunken revelry and crime brought by the US military on leave, or the noise the base causes for its residents, or the dangers from aircraft falling from the sky.

2) These are all very valid concerns that Japan has.

3) The US has agreed to take 9,000 of its 20,000 military personnel out of Okinawa and deploy them elsewhere.

4) Removing US troops from Okinawa will leave Japan a bit more exposed to the whims of China who are constantly buzzing the South Sea area around Japan as they look to expand their interest in the area.

 5) No one is saying where the US is deploying those 9,000 troops, but a good guess might be somewhere out in the South Sea area closer to China.

6) The US military aircraft Osprey is a very cool looking aircraft that possesses both VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) like a helicopter and STOL (short take-off and landing) like a jet on an aircraft carrier, meaning it has chopper and high-speed, long range cruising capabilities like a plane.

7) The US is looking to deploy the Osprey at Okinawa and Iwakuni military bases.  

8)  Despite performing well in US battle missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Osprey has had a couple of crashes in the past two months, making Japan wonder if there could be problems when it is deployed to bases in Japan.

9) Some people in Japan are saying that they don't want this aircraft deployed in Japan if it's not safe.

10) US and Japanese officials are meeting on June 22, 2012 in Washington, DC to discuss it. The US says there is nothing wrong with the aircraft mechanically

11) Despite local government concerns, they have no say in whether or not the aircraft can be deployed there. That is up to the Japanese national government. 

12) Local government talking loudly has embarrassed the Japanese national government.

13) AP says that Japanese prime minster Noda is, after meeting with US officials (WHERE? Washington?), expected to sell further deployment of the Osprey aircraft to other Japanese cities with US military bases. Why would he want strife from local government screwing up his national government's desires?

14) Prime minister Noda is visiting Okinawa on June 23 to take in a WWII memorial: Okinawa Battle Memorial - an Okinawa Prefecture-only memorial day to honor the war dead of all nationalities in the 1945 battle where almost one-third of Okinawans were killed - many by US soldiers and many by suicide - rather than surrender.

15) Question raised in AP story that I can't answer: Is PM Noda meeting US officials in Washington on June 22 (early in the AP story it says the US is meeting Japanese officials in Washington - but does not say who those officials are), and then immediately flying out to Okinawa to arrive there on June 23 for the Memorial celebration? Really? That's cool, if that is what is going on - but that's a hell of a trip for him, and dammit... why is the story not clear on this?    

That's all for now... I'll revist this story shortly after I untangle the knot in my shorts.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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