The Air Force is preparing to move a special operations squadron of 10 CV-22 Ospreys to a base in Japan, where they will be on the frontlines of the United States’ mounting standoff with China and North Korea.

The first three tilt-rotor aircraft are expected to arrive at Yokota Air Base, just west of Tokyo, in the second half of 2017, with another seven arriving by 2021, according to officials at the Pentagon.

Flown by Air Force Special Operations Command, the Ospreys will provide increased capability for special operators to respond to crises in or near Japan. The Air Force also uses Ospreys for combat search-and-rescue missions and to respond to natural disasters.

In addition, the Osprey squadron will “increase interoperability” and strengthen relationships with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the department said in a statement.

Air Force officials recently announced that they are relocating 46 civilian employees and their families who now reside on the base to make way for Osprey squadron facilities and for an additional 1,100 airmen..

The key airlift hub for the Western Pacific already is home to 11,500 personnel and more than 20 aircraft with the 374th Airlift Wing and the 36th Airlift Squadron, including a number of C-130H Hercules, C-12s and UH-1s. It is also home to the headquarters of 5th Air Force, with its frontline air bases spanning Japan from north to south.

The move comes at a time when key U.S. allies are scrambling to contain an assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea. U.S. forces are also returning to the Philippines in greater numbers, part of the Obama administration’s focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

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Image courtesy of US Air Force