Marine Corps Air Station Futenma

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MCAS Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma 20100526.jpg
MCAS Futenma insignia.svg
MCAS Futenma logo
Airport type Military
Operator United States Marine Corps
Location Okinawa, Japan
Built 1945
In use 1945 - present
Commander Col. James Flynn
Occupants 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
Elevation AMSL 246 ft / 75 m
Coordinates 26°16′15″N 127°44′53″E / 26.27083°N 127.74806°E / 26.27083; 127.74806Coordinates: 26°16′15″N 127°44′53″E / 26.27083°N 127.74806°E / 26.27083; 127.74806
Website Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
ROTM is located in Japan
Location in Japan
Direction Length Surface
m ft
06/24A 2,740 8,990 Asphalt/Concrete
Sources: Official site[1]
Japanese AIP at AIS Japan[2]

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[3] (ICAO: ROTM) is a United States Marine Corps base located in Ginowan, 5 NM (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) northeast[2]B of Naha, on the island of Okinawa. It is home to approximately 1,400[citation needed] Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and has been a U.S. military airbase since the defeat of the Japanese Imperial Army in 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).[4] The base includes a 2,740 by 45 m (8,990 by 148 ft)[2]A runway at 75 meters elevation,[5] 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.[6][7]


Futenma Air Base in Okinawa, Japan circa 1945
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and the town of Ginowan, Okinawa.

Futenma Airfield was constructed by the US military 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.[8][9]

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.[10] In 2013, more than 70,000 people attended the open base event, and the most popular aircraft on display were the MV-22 Ospreys.[11] 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.[12]


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.[13] 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.[14][15] Futenma has a high record of safety with well established procedures. [13]


The airbase has become a focal point of various political controversies in recent years. Due to population growth and encroachment around the base, concerns surrounding training flights over residential areas causing noise, air pollution and endangering public safety also became controversial issues in Ginowan City.[16] Safety concerns were voiced after the August 2004 hard landing of a Marine Corps CH-53D transport helicopter on the campus of Okinawa International University after the aircraft suffered mechanical issues. Three crew members were injured, but there were no injuries on the ground.[17]

Local residents also became concerned over pollution and ground water and soil contamination caused by the base's activities: for example, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kris Roberts (USMC) told the Japan Times that his base maintenance team unearthed leaking barrels of Agent Orange at the base in 1981.[18] The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) states that Agent Orange was never present on Okinawa, and an investigation commissioned by the DoD found no evidence that Agent Orange was ever on Okinawa [19] (See Agent Orange: Okinawa, Japan for more details.)

Special interest groups, including supporters and protestors, often gather outside the gates of Futenma. Local Okinawan citizens weekly clean vandalism and debris left by protest groups,[20] and supporters are often seen with banners thanking the US military.[21]


Henoko Bay plan[edit]

In December 1996, as part of the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI), the Japanese and U.S. governments decided that the Futenma base should be relocated to an off-shore location in Henoko Bay in Nago, relatively unpopulated northern Okinawa, in order to reduce military impact to the populated communities of southern Okinawa.[22] This was and remains a controversial decision, since the projected site involved construction on a coral reef and seagrass beds which some people believe to be inhabited by the dugong, an endangered marine mammal protected under Japanese and U.S. law.[23][1]

In a non-binding referendum conducted in December 1997, the majority of Nago residents voted against the Henoko relocation plan.[24] However, a few days later on December 24, Nago Mayor Higa accepted the relocation plan, resigned, and moved to Tokyo.[25] 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[edit]

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.[26][27] One of the cited reasons 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.[28] These plans were also accelerated when a CH-53D Sea Stallion transport helicopter experienced mechanical issues, experienced a hard landing in an empty field near Okinawa International University.

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.[29] 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,[30] 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.[22][28][30][31]

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.[32] 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."[33]

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.[34] 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.[35] On 17 May 2010, the anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, an estimated 17,000 Okinawans encircled the base in protest.[36] This was the fifth time such an action took place.[37]

Guam and Okinawa plan[edit]

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.[38] The plan did not gain traction, and the US and Japan governments consistently remained with the relocation plan as previously agreed.[citation needed]

However, the fate of Futenma remained unresolved through early 2012, with the U.S. insisting that the Marine Corps' aviation elements be kept on the island while the Okinawa Prefectural government and Nago City government would like the base moved off the island.[39] The US wants the aviation elements to be in close proximity to the ground and logistics elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, and the Japanese government maintaining the plan to keep the replacement airbase with the other elements in Okinawa in order to provide security and stability in the region and to provide for the defense of Japan under the Japan/U.S. defense alliance.[citation needed]

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.[40] 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.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46] 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.[43] The relocation move was expected to cost 8.6 billion US Dollars[41] 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.[40]

During this period, the US began to deploy Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft to Futenma in 2012, allowing the Marines (and the MV-22B Osprey aircraft) from Okinawa to train all along the length of Japan and around the entire Asia-Pacific region, with the Osprey's greatly increased speed, lift capabilities and range.[47]

Okinawa Consolidation Plan[edit]

In April 2013, the United States and Japan released an "Okinawa Consolidation Plan," which detailed more general positions of the 1996 DPRI and 2006 SACO plans, specifying 2,500 acres of land to be returned Japan. This included returning the entirety of MCAS Futenma by "Japanese Fiscal Year 2022 or later" once the "replacement facilities in Okinawa are provided." As part of the original DPRI plan, Futenma's KC-130J 'Super Hercules' refueling transport squadron moved to MCAS Iwakuni on mainland Japan in July 2014.[48] The plan also included, as in previous plans, moving Marine Corps airfield facilities to Camp Schwab at Henoko.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51] 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.[52] 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.[52][53] The head of the Nago municipal assembly responded that "what the governor has done is unforgivable. Residents who are opposed will surely resort to the use of force, such as blocking roads to stop this from happening."[54] 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.[55]

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."[50] 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.[56]

Tenant commands[edit]

See also[edit]


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?).[3][58]
B.^ The text version gives a runway 2,740 by 45 m (8,990 by 148 ft)[2] and the aerodrome chart gives 9,000 by 150 ft (2,743 by 46 m).


  1. ^ MCAS Futenma, official website, retrieved 12 November 2007
  2. ^ a b c d AIS Japan
  3. ^ a b United States Marine Corps (2012). "海兵隊普天間航空基地" [Marine Corps Air Station Futenma] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  4. ^ City of Ginowan (2012). "平成23年版 宜野湾市統計書" [Statistics of Ginowan City, 2011 ed.] (in Japanese). Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  5. ^ (2012). "ROTM: FUTENMA MCAS". USA. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
  6. ^ Global Security website.
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  8. ^ USAF Historical Research Agency Document 00219137
  9. ^ USAF Historical Research Agency documents for Futenma Air Base
  10. ^ (2013). "Futenma's Flightline Fair kicks off Saturday". Okinawa. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  11. ^ Case, Elizabeth (2013). "Flightline Fair showcases military aircraft". Okinawa. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  12. ^ (2013). "Okinawa Marines website". Okinawa. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  13. ^ a b Eldridge, Robert (3 February 2012). "Okinawa Base Problem Today". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Flynn, Daniel (22 May 2008). "Giant Plane delivers simulator". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
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  16. ^ "普天間飛行場 (Futenma Hikōjō)". Dijitaru daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  17. ^ Takahashi 2004.
  18. ^ Mitchell, Jon, "Agent Orange at base in '80s: U.S. vet", Japan Times, 15 June 2012, p. 1
  19. ^ Young, Alvin L. (January 2013). "Investigations into Allegations of Herbicide Orange on Okinawa, Japan". Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (I & E). Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  20. ^ Case, Elizabeth (4 April 2013). "Okinawa, US strengthen friendships via cleanup efforts". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  21. ^ Osprey Fan Club (20 April 2013). "Okinawa Osprey Fan Club". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
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  25. ^ 仲泊弘次「命を落とす覚悟」『普天間飛行場代替施設問題10年史』P52-53 北部地域振興協議会
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  27. ^ BBC News, 26 October 2005.
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  29. ^ Allen, David and Chiyomi Sumida (16 April 2006). "No accord yet on who pays to move Marines to Guam" (reprint in Leatherneck). Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  30. ^ a b "Thousands of Japanese protest U.S. base plan", Reuters, 8 November 2009.
  31. ^ Sief, Linda, (Reuters) "Q+A-Japan-U.S. base feud hits nerve ahead of Obama visit", Forbes, 25 October 2009.
  32. ^ "Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama resigns amid Okinawa row". BBC. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  33. ^ Will the U.S. Marines charge ashore at Kansai airport?, Japan Today
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  35. ^ David Allen, "Okinawa assembly to formally ask for Futenma base to move off the island", Stars and Stripes Online Edition, Thursday, 25 February 2010
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  38. ^ "Accountability report cites higher buildup cost; U.S. senators push alternative plan." Pacific Daily News, 26 May 2011.
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  40. ^ a b c "US agrees to Okinawa troop redeployment". Al Jazeera. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  41. ^ a b Seales, Rebecca (27 April 2012). "End of an era: U.S. cuts back presence in Okinawa as 9,000 Marines prepare to move out". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
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  44. ^ "Okinawa deal between US and Japan to move marines". BBC. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
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  49. ^ "Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa". Department of Defense. April 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  50. ^ a b "Henoko prep work to start in Jan.". Yomiuri Shimbun. 28 December 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2014. [dead link]
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  53. ^ "Okinawa base foes protest governor’s OK of offshore fill work for Futenma replacement". Japan Times. Kyodo. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  54. ^ "Controversial US airbase in Okinawa gets green light". DW. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  55. ^ "Okinawan governor faces revolt in assembly". AP. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  56. ^ Obe, Mitsuru (20 January 2014). "Tokyo Insists It Will Plow Ahead With Okinawa Base Relocation". Wall Street Journal Japan Real Time. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  57. ^ Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron
  58. ^ "Futenma Hikōjō no kinō to yakuwari (普天間飛行場の機能と役割)" [Funtenma Airport, functions and duties] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-05-25. 

 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.

External links[edit]