July 02, 2012
Credit: Credit: Boeing
The Pentagon said Friday it would start shipping 24 hybrid aircraft to Japan next month but would not fly them until final results of crash investigations confirmed for Tokyo that the helicopter-plane is safe.
The Marine Corps’ MV-22 tilt-rotor troop transport’s troubled past has stirred safety concerns and protests on Okinawa, the southern Japanese island where the Pentagon intends to deploy it as part of a streamlined U.S. military presence.
Long-running friction involving Okinawa has complicated the Obama administration’s plans to boost the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific after 10 years of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In recognition of the remaining concerns of the Japanese government about the safety of the aircraft,” the Defense Department will refrain from flights until final investigation results are presented to the Japanese government “and the safety of flight operations is confirmed,” a Pentagon statement said.
The Pentagon said it anticipated presenting the results in August. In the meantime, Japan will be the only place worldwide where such flights will be suspended, including over the continental United States.
The aircraft, a revolutionary design, are to be shipped initially to Iwakuni, the only U.S. Marine Corps air station in the main Japanese islands, for unloading in late July.
Twelve are to go this year and another 12 next year, said Major Cathy Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman. They are to be based at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, long a focus of local resentment over noise, safety and crime concerns.