20 Years Overdue

Japan promised to build a replacement for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa 22 years ago and the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is finally going to be built and it will be aptly named the Futenma Replacement Facility. The new airfield will be built on the Marines’ Camp Schwab near Henoko in northern part of Okinawa.


Henoko does not replace Futenma’s capabilities. Most importantly, the runway is too short. Futenma has a 2.7 kilometer runway that can handle every aircraft in the USMC inventory. Henoko’s runway is only 1,190 meters. So while it can handle STOVL and VSTOL fixed-wing aircraft such as the F-35B and AV-8 Harrier, along with helicopters, it is basically just a big heliport.


photo credit to: https://www.lillooetnews.net

Size also matters during unforeseen possibilities; extra space is needed for aircraft and personnel. The new base compares poorly with Futenma on this and emergencies are more likely to happen than ever before in East Asia.


Futenma is designated as a base for use with Korean Peninsula operations which will require larger, fixed wing aircraft that Henoko cannot handle. This capability goes away.


The second major shortcoming is being a U.S.-owned base — for exclusive use by American forces. All U.S. bases should be owned by the government of Japan and jointly utilized. This has successfully been done at Iwakuni, Atsugi, and Misawa.


Locals always hoped that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would declare the regional security situation to be much more dangerous than in 2005 when the Henoko deal was reached — and then order the Ministry of Defense to develop a better plan and offer it to the Americans but didn’t.


No government will allow a tiny percentage of the nation’s population to determine national security or interfere with their internal affairs. China has staked its claim — not just to the Senkakus — but also to the entire island chain.


Reference: OPINION: Missed opportunities


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