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DoD to Japan: Don't worry, the Osprey is safe

Pentagon and Air Force Special Operations Command officials are scheduled to brief a Japanese delegation next month in a bid to quell their concerns about the MV-22 Osprey eventually deploying to Okinawa.

The Osprey is a painful case -- it epitomizes many Americans' worst beliefs about the military-industrial-congressional complex, and despite the best efforts of the Marines and the Air Force, may never shake its reputation as a dangerous bird.

Any progress it might have made was set back by this year's two Osprey crashes: One MV-22 in April and one AFSOC CV-22 earlier this month. The Japanese were already less than enthused about American military air traffic over Okinawa, and the prospect of having Ospreys there isn't helping.

The presentation will be "a tangible demonstration of how seriously the Department of Defense takes the issue and inquiries made by the government of Japan on this matter," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in an announcement. It continued:

He told reporters the briefing will be led by senior DOD military and civilian officials, including Mark W. Lippert, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. It follows what Little described as concerns about the aircraft by the governor of Okinawa ...

"(The briefing) will provide information surrounding the June 13 mishap of an Air Force CV-22 in Florida as well as a status update on the investigation process, which the department is committed to completing in a comprehensive and timely manner," Little said, adding that officials from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will participate in the briefing.

The briefing also will summarize the results of the initial investigation into the April MV-22 crash. The initial investigation determined the incident was not caused by mechanical failure, Little said.

Little emphasized the Osprey's safety record and reliability.

"The Osprey is a highly capable aircraft with an excellent operational safety record and over 140,000 flight hours logged, about one-third of which were flown in the last two years," he said. "The United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps are continuing flight operations with the CV-22 and MV-22 fleet around the world. (This includes) transporting American troops in the United States and in combat operations in Afghanistan."

"Not caused by mechanical failure" could be code for "pilot error;" Pentagon officials have been eager before to point out that other mishaps weren't the fault of the airplane itself. Moreover, Marine aviation officials have always tried to be realistic -- almost fatalistic -- about the likelihood that Ospreys would crash. What comes up must come down, they've always said; no aircraft is perfect.

The difference is that an Army Black Hawk crashing doesn't immediately bring back 25 years in development, two cancellations, terrible test mishaps, and the scads of criticism from spending hawks. In that brief window in early 2011 when everybody and his mother in Washington was dropping a white-paper with recommendations for defense cuts, nearly all of them called for ending the Osprey.

But that's not an option for the Marines; their CH-46 Sea Knights are worn out. Barring some unexpected political shift or the dreaded sequester, the Osprey will be here to stay, and everyone will just have to get used to it.

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