WASHINGTON – After briefing Japanese officials on how probes into two crashes involving Osprey planes are progressing, the U.S. Defense Department emphasized the safety and capability of the controversial aircraft amid concerns about their planned deployment to Okinawa.
After a meeting Friday in the suburbs of Washington, Pentagon press secretary George Little backed the tilt-rotor transport planes.
“The Osprey is a highly capable aircraft with an excellent operational safety record, which includes more than five years of worldwide deployments and 140,000 flight hours,” Little said in a statement.
During the director general level meeting, which included officials from the Defense and Foreign ministries, U.S. officials updated the findings regarding the crash of an air force CV-22 Osprey in Florida earlier this month and a fatal crash in April of a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey in Morocco, the Pentagon said.
The Defense Department takes Japan’s inquiries very seriously and “provided relevant information to the extent currently possible, and will continue to do so,” Little said in the statement.
The two crashes are fueling safety concerns and opposition to a plan to deploy the MV-22 in Okinawa at the unpopular U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Before the meeting, the Pentagon spokesman signaled that the United States has no plan to cancel the deployment to Japan of MV-22s — which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a conventional plane — because of the two recent accidents.
“We expect to continue our deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa,” Little said.
The MV-22 that crashed during a joint drill with Moroccan forces April 11 killed two marines and injured two others. The CV-22 Osprey that crashed June 13 during training in southern Florida wounded five crew members.
Col. Jim Slife, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing at Florida’s Hurlburt Field, where the CV-22 involved in the June 13 accident was based, said the following day he has no reason to suspect any fundamental design flaws.
The U.S. Air Force has removed the lieutenant colonel who supervised the training in Florida, sources said, apparently indicating the accident was due to problems with the training rather than the aircraft’s technology.
Okinawa rain season ends
Okinawa’s rainy season is believed to have ended, a local observatory announced Saturday.
The meteorological phenomenon was declared over on the usual date in an average year, but 14 days later than in 2011. The rainy season started in the prefecture April 28, the third-earliest date since comparable data became available in 1951, and lasted 56 days.