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U.S. begins Osprey test flights in W. Japan

(Xinhua)

13:13, September 21, 2012

TOKYO, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Marine Corps have begun test flights of the controversial MV-22 Osprey at its air base in western Japan Friday morning, local media reported.

The flight trial kicked off at 9:24 a.m. local time in the U.S. military training airspace codenamed R134 off the coast of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Officials from municipalities affected by the Osprey deployment will be invited to take a test ride on Sept. 27.

As soon as the tests are over, the 12 Osprey planes will be transferred to the Futenma air station in the southernmost Okinawa Prefecture for full-fledged operation likely to start in mid- October.

The Japanese government Wednesday gave the green light for operation of the tilt-rotor aircraft after confirming its safety.

But many local residents and activist groups have staged demonstrations against and voiced concern about the multi-mission aircraft, pushing the U.S. military to agree not to fly below 150 meters or above densely populated areas.

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