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Ospreys to remain grounded… for now

Date Posted: 2012-08-10

The word has come from the Pentagon’s chief: the MV-22 Ospreys In Japan will remain grounded until reports have gone to Tokyo, and been reviewed, about the tilt-rotor aircraft’s safety.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made it plain this week that even as safety reports on a pair of Osprey crashes are completed and reviewed, it will honor Japan’s wishes that the controversial transport aircraft slated for deployment to Okinawa –and now awaiting testing at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in mainland Japan—will stay solidly on the ground. Panetta gave the assurances as he was meeting with visiting Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto.

Morimoto was given a quick ride aboard an MV—22 on a check hop to the Quantico Marine Corps Base near Washington D.C. “As close allies, we will respect –always respect—the concerns and the circumstances on both sides and work together to develop practical solutions,” Panetta told reporters after meeting with Morimoto. “In recognition of the remaining concerns of the Japanese government about the safety of the aircraft, we will refrain from any flight operations of the MV-22 in Japan in the short term,” he said.

The Japanese Defense Minister offered similar words, noting Tokyo will cooperate with Washington “to ensure the safety of residents” in Okinawa Prefecture, where a fleet of the Ospreys will be stationed at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, replacing antiquated heavy lift CH-46 helicopters. Panetta has told Morimoto the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station is critically needed to provide support for U.S. troops.

Many don’t agree, arguing the Osprey is not safe. Five crew members were injured when an Air Force CV-22 Osprey crashed in April in the Florida Panhandle. Two Marines were killed and two others injured in Morocco in April during a training exercise, when an MV-22 crashed. Those accidents, plus the political hyperbola of the entire Futenma location / relocation, has Okinawans up in arms.

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