Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
|MCAS Futenma logo|
|IATA: none – ICAO: ROTM|
|Operator||United States Marine Corps|
|In use||1945 - present|
|Commander||Col. James Flynn|
|Occupants||1st Marine Aircraft Wing|
|Elevation AMSL||246 ft / 75 m|
|Sources: Official site
Japanese AIP at AIS Japan
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma or MCAS Futenma (Japanese: 海兵隊普天間航空基地 Hepburn: Kaiheitai Futenma Kōkū Kichi?)A (ICAO: ROTM) is a United States Marine Corps base located in Ginowan, 5 NM (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) northeastB of Naha, on the island of Okinawa. It is home to approximately 2,500 Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and has been a U.S. military airbase since the island was liberated from the Japanese Imperial Army following the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Marine Corps pilots and aircrew are assigned to the base for training and providing air support to other land and sea-based Marines in Okinawa and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. MCAS Futenma is part of the Marine Corps Installations Pacific command.
MCAS Futenma is situated in Ginowan City (pop. 93,661). The base includes a 2,740 by 45 m (8,990 by 148 ft)A runway at 75 meters elevation, as well as extensive barracks, administrative and logistical facilities. The air station is tasked with operating a variety of fixed wing, rotary wing and tilt rotor aircraft in support of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the Japan U.S. defense alliance and many allies and treaty partners in the region. The base is also used as a United Nations air distribution hub facility.
Futenma Airfield was constructed by the US military in undeveloped farmland following the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. According to Ginowan City records, the joint population of what was then Ginowan Village (now Ginowan City) was 12,994 in 1944. It was initially allocated for Eighth Air Force use to station B-29 Superfortress strategic bombers in the planned Invasion of Japan. With the end of the war, the airfield became a United States Air Force Far East Air Force installation known as Futenma Air Base, and was used as a support airfield for the nearby Kadena Air Base, hosting fighter-interceptor squadrons as part of the air defense of the Ryukyu Islands. The base was transferred to the United States Navy on 30 June 1957 and was subsequently developed into a United States Marine Corps air station. Over the years, encroachment has resulted in a small city growing around the air station, a source of major economic revenue. Each year, MCAS Futenma opens its gates to the community for the Futenma Flight Line Fair, which includes popular big-name U.S. band performances, entertainment, static displays of all aircraft, military vehicles and demonstrations, and more. In 2013, more than 70,000 Okinawans attended the open base event, and the most popular aircraft on display were the MV-22 Ospreys. Aside from the annual fair, there are hundreds of community relations events held each year by MCAS Futenma staff, highlighting the excellent relationships Marines enjoy with the local community.
Futenma's 75m elevation provides a safe and effective location to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the event of a tsuanmi, which would render the sea-level Naha international airport inoperable. The 9,000 ft. runway also gives the capability of safely landing the largest commercial and military cargo planes in the world, including the Antonov An-124 Ruslan, which has landed at Futenma multiple times. Futenma is one of the safest among both military and civilian airfields due to the many measures taken by the U.S. military to reduce impact of flight operations on the local community.
The base has become a focal point of various political controversies in recent years. Due to Futenma's now urban location, concerns surrounding training flights over residential areas causing noise and endangering public safety also became controversial and political issues. Safety concerns were raised after the August 2004 hard-landing and subsequent fire of a Marine Corps CH-53D helicopter in a deserted area on the campus of Okinawa International University. Although there were three minor crew injuries, all the crew members walked away from the incident, and there were no injuries to anyone on the ground. Special interest groups, including protestors and supporters, often gather outside the gates of Futenma. Local Okinawan citizens weekly clean vandalism and debris left by protest groups, and supporters are often seen with banners thanking the US military.
Henoko Bay plan
In December 1996, the Japanese and U.S. governments decided that the Futenma base should be relocated to an off-shore location in Henoko Bay in the Nago region, an unpopulated area in northern Okinawa. This was and remains a controversial decision, since the projected site involved construction on a coral reef and seagrass beds which are claimed by some to be the habitat of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal protected under Japanese and U.S. law. However, no authoritative studies have shown a dugong existence in that area. In a non-binding referendum conducted in December 1997, the majority of Nago residents voted against the Henoko relocation plan. However, a few days later on December 24, Nago Mayor Higa accepted the relocation plan, resigned, and moved to Tokyo. The next year Kishimoto was elected governor on a platform that included "following the prefectural government" on any plans regarding the relocation.
Camp Schwab plan
On 26 October 2005, the governments of the United States and Japan agreed to move the relocation site for Futenma from the reef area off Henoko to the interior and coastal portions of the existing Marine base at Camp Schwab, just a few hundred meters away from the previously-planned offshore facility. The cited reason for the change was to reduce the engineering challenge associated with building a runway on reefs in deep water: experts estimate that rather than the 15-plus years required to construct a new airbase at the previous reef location, the Camp Schwab plan will enable Futenma to be relocated sooner. These plans were accelerated when the CH-53D helicopter based at Futenma made a hard landing on the campus of Okinawa International University in 2004.
The mayor of Nago, which hosts Camp Schwab, formally agreed to accept the relocation when he signed an agreement with Defense Minister Nukaga on 8 April 2006. Mayor Shimabukuro was later joined by all five of the major mayors of northern Okinawa. Although some all-Okinawa public opinion polls indicated that majority of Okinawans wish the based moved out of the prefecture entirely, all 12 elected mayors of northern Okinawa publicly accepted the new relocation plan, exposing a range of conflicting opinions among Okinawans: those who maintain that military facilities and associated public works infrastructure benefit the island's economy, environmentalists, and those who either object or are critical to the U.S. military presence on ideological grounds or on rooted sentiments.
The relocation plans again gained national attention in 2009 when the Democratic Party of Japan included a promise to move Futenma off the island in its manifesto. After winning the election, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama found the promise hard to honor and resigned after only eight months in office when it was confirmed that the base would not move off Okinawa. At one point in 2009, Osaka Prefecture governor Toru Hashimoto even publicly proposed moving the base's functions to Osaka's Kansai International Airport (which is on an artificial island), remarking that "the burden [of bases on Okinawa] should be spread more evenly throughout Japan."
Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago city elected on 24 January 2010, and reelected again on 19 January 2013, is against the Henoko relocation plan and argued for the relocation of Futenma outside of Okinawa. The local assembly of Nago voted against the relocation plan, and the prefectural assembly of Okinawa also formally asked the prime minister to move the base out of the prefecture. On 17 May 2010, the anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, people from Okinawa unsuccessfully attempted to form a "human chain" around Futenma. This was the fifth time such an action was attempted.
Guam and Okinawa plan
In 2011, the chairman and ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services called for an alternative plan where Futenma aircraft would move to Kadena Air Base while the current aircraft at Kadena would move to Andersen Air Force Base. The plan did not gain traction, and the US and Japan governments consistently remained with the relocation plan as previously agreed, while Okinawans remained with varying opinions, some opposed the base and wanting it relocated elsewhere, some opposed to the current location and wanting it relocated within the prefecture per the agreement, and some supporting the air station in its current location.
The US and Japan delinked the relocation of Futenma from plans to decrease the number of Marines stationed on Okinawa under a troop redeployment agreement in April 2012. Under the terms of the new U.S.-Japan agreement, 5,000 U.S. Marines were to be relocated to Guam and 4,000 U.S. Marines to other Pacific locations such as Hawaii or Australia, while some 10,000 Marines would remain on Okinawa. No timetable for the Marines redeployment has been announced, but the Washington Post reported that U.S. Marines would leave Futenma as soon as suitable facilities on Guam and elsewhere are ready. The relocation move was expected to cost 8.6 billion US Dollars and included a $3.1 billion cash commitment from Japan for the move to Guam as well as for developing joint training ranges on Guam and on Tinian and Pagan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
During this period, the US began to deploy Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft to Futenma in 2012, allowing the Marines to train from Futenma all along the length of Japan and around the entire Asia-Pacific region, with the Osprey's greatly increased range.
Okinawa Consolidation Plan
In April 2013, the United States and Japan released an "Okinawa Consolidation Plan," which called for the return of 2,500 acres of Okinawa land to Japan, including the entirety of MCAS Futenma, by the late 2020s. Under this plan, Futenma's KC-130 squadron would move to MCAS Iwakuni on the main island of Japan, while its Marine Corps airfield facilities would move to Camp Schwab. The proposed location within Camp Schwab is insulated from potential protestors, unlike the previous proposed location in Henoko Bay where local civilians were able to enter the survey area.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved a landfill proposal by the Japanese government to permit construction of new military facilities in Henoko, a move praised by the US. The decision came two days after Tokyo earmarked 348 billion yen for Okinawa's economic development and despite earlier campaign promises by Nakaima to move the base outside of the prefecture all together. Over 2,000 citizens responded immediately with a protest in front of the prefectural administration building, with around 1,000 forcing their way into the building to stage a sit-in. The Okinawa prefectural assembly adopted a resolution by a 24-21 vote calling for Nakaima's resignation, stating that he broke an election promise by agreeing to the move.
Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago, where the new facility is to be built, opposed the plan, while Mayor Atsushi Sakima, of Ginowan where the current facility is located, supported the plan. Nago held a mayoral election in January 2014, in which Inamine's main rival, former Vice Mayor Bunshin Suematsu, supported the plan as "a significant step toward reducing the dangers posed by Futenma." Inamine won the election and subsequently vowed to block any landfill plans in the city, but the national government said it would continue with the plan and that the authority to approve the plan rested with the governor of Okinawa.
- Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler
- List of United States Marine Corps installations
- List of airports in Japan
- USAAF in Okinawa
- A.^ In the Japanese language MCAS Futenma is formally known as: Kaiheitai Futenma Kōkū Kichi (海兵隊普天間航空基地?), more commonly as: Futenma Hikōjō (普天間飛行場?), and is commonly abbreviated in speech and writing as: Futenma Kichi (普天間基地?).
- B.^ The text version gives a runway 2,740 by 45 m (8,990 by 148 ft) and the aerodrome chart gives 9,000 by 150 ft (2,743 by 46 m).
- MCAS Futenma, official website, retrieved 12 November 2007
- AIS Japan
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- Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron
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This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps. This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.|
- MCAS Futenma's official website
- Futenma Marine Corps Air Station at GlobalSecurity.org
- The Futenma relocation issue Detailed list of events on the Japanese Wikipedia.
- Current weather for ROTM at NOAA/NWS