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US seeks to reassure Japan over Osprey aircraft
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 22, 2012

Pentagon officials sought to reassure Japanese representatives Friday about the safety of Osprey aircraft after recent crashes raised concerns about plans to deploy the planes to Okinawa.

In talks with their Japanese counterparts, Pentagon officials and military officers "provided updates on the status of the investigations into recent aircraft mishaps," press secretary George Little said in a statement.

An Air Force CV-22 Osprey crashed last week in Florida, injuring all five crew members. US officials said the accident was not due to mechanical problem.

In April, an MV-22 Osprey -- the variant that is due to deploy in Japan -- crashed in Morocco, killing two Marines.

But the Pentagon insists the aircraft has an excellent safety record overall and that it has no plans to cancel the deployment of the Osprey to Japan.

"The Department of Defense takes the inquiries made by the Japanese government very seriously and provided relevant information to the extent currently possible, and will continue to do so," Little said.

"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," he said.

The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft with rotors that allow it take off like a helicopter and engines that can tilt forward, enabling it to fly like an airplane at greater speed than a chopper.

The aircraft was plagued with problems in its early years, in the 1990s, but officials say the technical glitches have been overcome and the US Marine Corps says it has proven invaluable.

The US military presence in Okinawa is a delicate political issue and concerns over the Osprey came after the two countries clinched a deal in April on the scale of the US role.

Under the deal, the United States will shift 9,000 Marines out of Japan in a step designed to ease friction with Tokyo over the US military footprint.


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