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U.S. stands by Osprey; Iwakuni City rejects it

Date Posted: 2012-06-28

Plans for deploying the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Japan this summer continues to be an us-and-them situation, with the United States insisting the plane is perfectly safe and will come to Okinawa, while Iwakuni’s Assembly unequivocally rejects having the controversial aircraft make a temporary stop at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station en route.

The Osprey’s supposed to replace aging heavy lift cargo helicopters at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in August, following arrival in Japan, safety checks and test flights at Iwakuni in late July. The U.S. has responded to complaints about the plane’s safety in the aftermath of two crashes in the past three months, saying there’s nothing wrong with the planes. An accident in Morocco in April caused fatalities, while another that crashed in Florida earlier this month did not result in casualties.

Iwakuni, which hosts the Marine base, passed a motion saying it “strongly opposed” a deployment plan for the planes to the local Yamaguchi Prefecture base, pointing out the accidents “have caused great worry to citizens and great confusion in the city.” None of the assembly’s 32 members supported the deployment plan. The U.S. is providing briefings to Japanese officials about the two Osprey crashes.

“The Osprey is a highly capable aircraft with an excellent operational safety record,” says the Defense Department’s press secretary, George Little. “The plane has more than five years of worldwide deployments and 140,000 flight hours,” he says, adding that the Defense Department is taking Japan’s concerns seriously and will “provide relevant information to the extent currently possible, and will continue to do so.”

Little says “we expect to continue our deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa.”

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