The Japanese government has reportedly asked the United States Marine Corps to cease all MV-22 Osprey flights in the region, following an incident that involved an Osprey going down off the coast of Australia over the weekend.

We will continue to ask the United States [to stop flying Ospreys] until we receive a solid explanation” about the accident,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Sunday.   “Japan will urge the United States to give maximum consideration to safety and minimize the impact on local residents.”

Saturday’s incident involved an MV-22 Osprey assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.  After taking off from the USS Bonhomme Richard, a wasp class amphibious assault ship, the Osprey was en route to land on the USS Green Bay, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, when a mechanical issue brought the aircraft down.  Of the Osprey’s compliment of 26 crew and passengers, 23 were rescued.  After an exhausting search and rescue operation, the Pentagon announced it would be transitioning to a recovery operation, as finding the remaining three crew members alive was unlikely.

Another crash involving a Marine MV-22 Osprey occurred in the waters off the coast of Okinawa last year.  The aircraft was lost, but no Marines were killed in the incident.

We’re in contact with the government of Japan, there [have] been communications over the weekend between U.S.-Forces Japan and the U.S. embassy with our Japanese counterparts there,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, said.  “We also always take the safety of all of our operations, not just MV-22s, very seriously and we recognize we are guests of the government of Japan there.  I would also say though these are forces, these are capabilities, these are assets specifically for the defense of Japan.  So we’ll continue to talk with the government of Japan.”

The United States Marine Corps first sent a squadron of MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa in 2012, after a controversial testing and development period that saw no less than four crashes that claimed the lives of thirty test personnel.  Local residents were wary of the presence of the tilt-rotor aircraft, citing concerns about the Fetenma Marine Base’s close proximity to a number of schools.  A protest on the island saw an estimated 25,000-50,000 residents in attendance as the Ospreys arrived.

However, contrary to the MV-22’s shaky reputation, the aircraft has proven a to be a capable asset in combat.  With the ability to take off and land like a helicopter, combined with flight characteristics more comparable to airplanes, the MV-22 has shown its value in situations that called for such a specialized transport system.  When the Osprey crossed the 100,000 operational hours mark in 2012, it had earned one of the best safety records of all Marine Corps rotorcraft.  In fact, the Osprey has proven so effective, the same Japanese government that has requested a halt to Osprey air operations in their country is already on the hook to buy 17 of their own.

In May of 2015, Japan and the United States announced a $3 billion deal that would see 17 MV-22 Osprey’s added to Japan’s growing Self-Defense force.  The fleet is expected to arrive at Japan’s Saga Airport in 2019, to establish a new brigade in the Nagasaki Prefecture.


Image courtesy of Wikipedia