Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a joint news briefing with his Japanese counterpart Aug. 3 said the military has complete confidence in the MV-22 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 Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi 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.”
Panetta also praised the defense partnership between the United States and Japan.
“This alliance has been the bedrock to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years,” he said.
The MV-22 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.
“The Defense Department anticipates presenting this information to the Japanese government sometime this month,” he said.
An Osprey crash in Morocco in April killed two people; another in Florida in June injured five.
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’s decision to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an important move that will help expand our bilateral cooperation,” Panetta said. “It will enhance the ability of our forces to operate together and it will ensure our dominance of the skies for decades to come.”
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.