U.S. to resume Osprey flights in Japan following Pentagon clearance

UPI
The United States will resume flights of the V-22 Osprey aircraft in Japan as soon as Thursday after the Pentagon granted it clearance. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
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March 13 (UPI) -- The Japanese Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it will resume using the V-22 Osprey aircraft with U.S. forces as soon as Thursday after it was cleared to return last week.

The statement said the two militaries would work together to make any necessary adjustments to re-incorporate the Osprey back into its training.

"We have been closely coordinating the time for resuming operations [with the United States]," the Japanese military said. "The way forward until the resumptions will differ from unit to unit depending on the unit's mission, operational requirement and implementation status of various safety measures."

The tilt-rotor hybrid aircraft had been grounded by both Japan and the Pentagon since December after a craft off the coast of the Japanese island of Yakushima killed eight U.S. service members.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said, though, that neither the Japanese nor U.S. military have given the public any reassurances about the safety of the aircraft.

"We are totally unconvinced and [the resumption of the Osprey flights] are unacceptable," Tamaki said in a news conference.

Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsugawa said he was equally in the dark.

"We want [the government] to take steps so that the anxiety of the local citizens can be eased," he said.

The U.S. Air Force preliminary investigation found a material failure in a V-22 Osprey component that led the Pentagon and Japan grounding all V-22s on Dec. 6. During that time, investigators developed mitigation controls that led to them putting the aircraft back into service.

The tilt-rotor aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a fixed-winged aircraft. That ability makes it a favorite of special forces units which allows it to carry nearly two dozen service members.