A US Marine Corps V-22 Osprey tiltrotor deployment to Japan is taking place despite the controversy surrounding it.
12 of these multi-mode US military transporters - which can take off vertically like helicopters but then fly at speeds similar to conventionally-winged aircraft - arrived in Japan on 23 July 2012. Currently positioned at a military base in Iwakuni, they'll soon be relocated to Okinawa's MCAS Futenma to replace a fleet of much older CH-46 helicopters presently stationed there.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is sited on Okinawa Island and hosts around 4,000 USMC personnel. It's been a US military air base since the end of WW2 and also functions as a UN support base.
USMC Osprey Controversy
The USMC Osprey controversy centres on the type's safety record, with critics saying the V-22s simply aren't safe to fly. These long held-concerns surged earlier this year when two V-22s crashed in separate incidents.
The US military maintains that the V-22 Osprey - operated both by the US Marine Corps and the USAF - is a solid and reliable platform, already extensively and successfully used in Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘Deployment of these aircraft in Japan is a vital component in fulfilling the United States' commitment to provide for the defense of Japan and to help maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region', the US Embassy added, in a statement released on 23 July.
Osprey Japanese Deployment
Even so, one of the highest-profile Osprey Japanese deployment complaints yet made has come from Yoshihiko Fukuda - the Mayor of Iwakuni. "We have been urging that it [the cargo ship containing the Ospreys] not be allowed into the port until safety is confirmed", he stated according to the Kyodo news organisation, adding: "We feel distrust and indignation that [our message] did not reach the state."
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is operated only by the US military and it's the sole tiltrotor design in military service. It has equipped the US Marine Corps since 2005 and serves as a troop and equipment transport platform. Key to its abilities is its rotating engine design which sees each engine nacelle move through approximately 90 degrees to enable both vertical and horizontal flight to be achieved. This nacelle rotation process takes 12 seconds from start to finish.
The V-22 Osprey has a top speed of 351 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,072 miles and an operational ceiling of 26,000 feet.
V-22 Osprey image copyright US Air Force