News: Japan Defense Minister flies in Osprey
Story by 1st Lt. Jean-Scott Dodd
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, in a joint press conference Aug. 3 with Japan Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, said the military has complete confidence in the MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft it recently delivered to Marines in Japan.
The Osprey is key to the department’s plans for the Asia-Pacific region, Panetta said during his Pentagon briefing with Morimoto. “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.”
The MV-22B Osprey will not become operational 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, Panetta said.
“When the Osprey is operated in Japan, all the relevant issues will be discussed in a Japan-U.S. joint committee meeting,” added Morimoto. “In order to solve these problems, we are actively cooperating and (will) give utmost consideration to ensure the safety of the local population.”
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 is moving forward with dynamic defense cooperation,” said Morimoto. “Under the current security environment, some of the important items, they include the F-35, information security and maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. So we agreed to further strengthen the cooperative relationship in these areas between Japan and the United States.”
After the press conference, Morimoto took part in a familiarization flight aboard an Osprey, flying from the Pentagon to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia and back.
Morimoto described the flight as “smoother than I thought it would be,” and had the impression that the noise levels of the Osprey were not very high. He added the trip aboard the Osprey was “pleasant” and that he would like to explain his experience to Okinawa’s governor as soon as possible.