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Ospreys now en route to Japan from California

Date Posted: 2012-07-07

MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft moving to Okinawa is no longer just talk, as a dozen of the tilt-rotor planes are now aboard a cargo ship in Pacific waters, headed to Japan.

The civilian cargo vessel carrying 12 MV-22 aircraft is now headed to Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in Japan from the U.S. Naval Base at San Diego. The vertical takeoff and landing aircraft are expected to arrive in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Iwakuni in late July.

The freighter is carrying the first contingent of planes being deployed to Okinawa to replace aging CH-46 cargo helicopters. The Ospreys will first be unloaded, assembled and tested at Iwakuni before being flown to Okinawa. The deployment schedule calls for the planes to be in Okinawa in August or September, but that schedule could be delayed, depending on the outcome of U.S. investigations into a pair of crashes involving Ospreys.

The U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, says he thinks Pentagon explanations about those crashes have already eased safety fears about their planned deployment to Japan. “I think we’ve been able to relieve concerns with what we presented” at a Pentagon briefing for Japanese officials. He says “we have assured them about the safety of the Ospreys.”

The U.S. has formally notified Japan of its plans to move the 24 Mv-22 Ospreys to Okinawa to replace helicopters now in place at Futenma. Opposition to the deployment has been building, both because of the safety issues triggered by the Osprey crashes in Morocco and Florida, and because of local Okinawa opposition to the continued use of Futenma.

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