The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is now approved to fly in Japan, Press Secretary George Little said in a statement here today.
Little, traveling with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in Asia this week, said today the secretary is pleased that an agreement has been reached between the United States and the government of Japan that permits the Osprey to begin flight operations.
?This agreement was the result of a deep partnership and thorough process that allowed both sides to reconfirm the safety of the aircraft,? Little said. ?It is a testament to the strength and maturity of our alliance, which remains the cornerstone for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.?
A senior defense official also traveling with Panetta said the agreement was ?the result of deep personal attention on the part of both Panetta and [Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi] Morimoto, who have quickly developed a close relationship.?
The Osprey has been controversial since it was shipped to Japan in July, but Panetta said during a Sept. 17 news conference with Morimoto that the two countries have established a joint committee to resolve any questions about the aircraft?s safety.
The Osprey was sent to replace CH-46 helicopters used by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa and Defense officials say it can operate at twice the speed, three times the payload, and four times the range as the helicopters.
?The Osprey will provide a critical capability that strengthens the United States' ability to defend Japan, perform humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and fulfill other alliance roles,? Little said.