Pentagon pushing Ospreys into Japan

The Ospreys destined for the Pacific will replace the older CH-46 helicopters flown by Marine Corps units attached to Marine Expeditionary Force III stationed in the region, according to a Pentagon statement. 

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The first tranche of V-22s will arrive at the the service's air station in Iwakuni in late July, according to the Pentagon. The aircraft, built by Bell-Boeing, is designed to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing plane.

Japanese defense officials were initially wary about DOD's plans to ship the Osprey to Japan, in light of two major accidents involving the aircraft in the past three months. 

Before agreeing to the deployments, Tokyo requested "facts and preliminary findings" from the ongoing inquiries into the crashes in North Africa and Florida, according to DOD. 

In April, two Marines were killed and two others wounded when an Osprey crashed during a joint U.S. training mission with the Moroccan military. 

The Marine Corps tiltrotor went down in the southern province of Tan Tan in Morocco's Guelmim Province, 450 miles south of Rabat, according to reports at the time. 

Two months later, an Air Force Osprey crashed during another training mission in Hurlburt Field, Fla., which is home to Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters. Five airmen from the 1st Special Operations Wing were injured during that crash. 

In both instances, Marine Corps and Air Force leaders decided not suspend Osprey operations while military officials conducted investigations into the incidents. 

Japanese officials were told that initial reports showed the Morocco incident was not caused by any mechanical or materiel failures aboard the aircraft, according to Pentagon officials. 

Regarding the Hurlburt Field crash, Air Force officials told their Japanese counterparts that the service "stands behind the CV-22's reliability and is convinced that the aircraft is safe for operations." 

However, the Pentagon and service leaders agreed to suspend all Osprey operations in Japan until the investigations into both crashes are complete. Those inquiries are set to wrap up by August. 

That said, there are no plans to suspend any Osprey flights in the continental United States or at other American military bases around the world.