TOKYO, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- The commander of one of the U.S. Marine Corps two MV-22 Osprey squadrons based in Okinawa being fired owing to a loss of trust in his ability to command, as reported by local media Friday, comes as tensions here continue to rise amid a recent spate of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft.
Marine Lt. Col. Bryan Swenson was removed from his position commanding the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 on Jan. 26, the U.S. Marine Corps was quoted as saying in reports on Friday.
Swenson's high-profile removal comes six months after a fatal crash of one of the squadron's MV-22 Ospreys off Australia's eastern coast in which three crew members were killed.
Swenson was in command of the squadron when the accident-prone tilt-rotor airplane crashed.
According to a statement from the Marines, Swenson was removed from his post because of a "loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command."
The squadron is based at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, itself a source of rising tension among local residents and prefectural officials in Okinawa.
Okinawa hosts 74 percent of all U.S. bases in Japan. Local fears in Okinawa and on Japan's mainland about the Ospreys have been growing due to the plane's checkered safety history and the central government's planned acquisition of 17 such planes.
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey made an emergency landing in Japan's Oita Prefecture, on the eastern coast of Kyushu, in August 2017, and a crash-landing of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft off Nago in Okinawa in December 2016, ignited major concerns about the planes' safety here, with its track record doing little to settle frayed nerves among citizens and officials, particularly in Okinawa.
In 2015, an MV-22B Osprey crashed in Hawaii, leaving two dead and 20 more injured.
Prior to that, four crew members narrowly escaped injury when a Marine Corps' Osprey made a "hard landing" near the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, in the United States, in 2013.
In 2012, an Osprey crashed in Morocco and killed two Marines and another crash in Florida injured all five crew members.
Among, but not limited to, other incidents and accidents involving the Bell Boeing-made Osprey, an Air Force CV-22, each of which costs around 100 million U.S. dollars, touched down short of its landing zone in Afghanistan in 2010, hit a ditch and flipped over, killing four Marines.
Thirty Marines lost their lives in three crashes, including 19 in a single accident in Arizona, in 2000, during the Osprey's developmental phase, launching the plane's severely checkered safety record and giving grounds for current trepidation among Japanese citizens living near the plane's bases or flight paths.
Along with the infamous Ospreys, Okinawa has also been plagued by a number of helicopter-related accidents and mishaps recently.
These include a window falling from a U.S. Marine CH-53E transport helicopter in December 2017 and crashing onto the grounds of an elementary school, just meters from where children were taking an exercise class.
The accident did not stop helicopters, also based at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, from flying over the school following the incident, despite ardent protests from the local and central governments.
In January alone, three helicopters, also from the controversial Futenma base, were forced to make emergency, off-base landings in Okinawa, leading to a harsh backlash from local residents and a palpable rise in anti-U.S. sentiment on the tiny sub-tropical island.
On Thursday, the prefectural assembly of Okinawa unanimously adopted a resolution protesting the helicopter-linked mishaps, highlighting the fact that U.S. forces in Okinawa continue to operate the models of helicopters involved despite having not provided adequate reasons for the accidents.
The resolution also calls for an immediate halt of flights over civilian areas, as the Marines agreeing to avoid flying over the elementary school struck by the falling window, has not been adhered to, according to recent video footage.
The prefectural assembly, in the resolution to be delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and to U.S. Forces, Japan, which operates under the auspices of the United States Pacific Command, is also calling for the Marines stationed in Okinawa to be transferred out of the prefecture and Japan altogether at the earliest time possible.