Panetta: Ospreys Grounded in Japan Pending Investigation
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2012 – The Marine Corps will deliver the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Japan on time, but they will remain grounded for the short term, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told reporters today during a joint Pentagon press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto.
Panetta said the Osprey will not fly in Japan until a full report into two recent incidents involving the aircraft is presented to the Japanese government and the safety of flight operations is reconfirmed. “The Defense Department anticipates presenting this information to the Japanese government sometime this month,” he said.
An Osprey crash in Morocco in April killed two people; another in Florida in June injured five.
The Osprey is key to the defense department’s plans for the Asia-Pacific region, Panetta said. “It will enable Marines to fly faster and farther from Okinawa to remote islands in Japan. This is a one-of-a-kind platform.”
“We have tremendous confidence in this plane,” Panetta added. “We fly it in combat operations, we fly it around the world [and] we fly it here in this country ... This plane can safely implement its operational mission.”
Panetta also praised the defense partnership between the United States and Japan.
“This alliance has been the bedrock to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years,” he said.
During their meeting today the defense leaders also discussed plans to realign the U.S. force structure and ways to modernize and advance the U.S.-Japan alliance, including joint operations, training and shared use of training ranges.
“Japan’s decision to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an important move that will help expand our bilateral cooperation,” Panetta said. “It will enhance the ability of our forces to operate together and it will ensure our dominance of the skies for decades to come.”
After the press conference, Panetta and Morimoto took part in a familiarization flight aboard an Osprey, flying from the Pentagon to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.