Japan's Ground Self Defense Force and the US Marines take part in a training exercise. Photo: Anadolu Agency via AFP/Richard Atrero de Guzman

The Asahi Shimbun reports that Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) will formally create the country’s first “marine” combat brigade since World War II on March 27.

The unit is being deployed to defend Japan’s southernmost islands, including a group of islets claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. But the Japanese newspaper says the unit is currently “marooned” because it’s still awaiting delivery of 17 tiltrotor Osprey transport planes from the US. The delivery of the aircraft is expected to begin in fiscal 2018.

Deploying the marines has also been delayed because the Japanese government is still trying to secure a base for the Ospreys – which are designed to ferry the troops to island battlefields.

The V-22 Osprey is a high-speed, tiltrotor military aircraft made by Boeing that has vertical takeoff and landing, and short takeoff and landing capabilities.

Japan’s new marine brigade will be based in the GSDF’s Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. Saga Airport, which sits on reclaimed land in Ariake Bay, is 60-kilometers from Sasebo, a major naval base used by both Japan and the US. Asahi says Saga Airport is a top candidate as a potential site to accommodate the Ospreys.

While GSDF troops routinely train in amphibious warfare, this is the first time since 1945 that the armed forces have mustered a specialized marine unit dedicated to island defense. However, Japan’s military is yet to create a separate marine corps or branch of naval infantry as was the case with the Imperial Japanese Navy.

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