Osprey Has ‘High’ Safety Level, But Accidents Not Unknown; U.S. Military, Japan’s SDF Both Use the Versatile Aircraft

A floating object that appears to be a raft belonging to an MV-22 Osprey aircraft that crashed into the sea is seen off Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Wednesday in this handout photo taken by a Japan Coast Guard airplane and provided by Japan Coast Guard.

The Osprey aircraft was developed by the United States, mainly with the aim of expanding the range of military operations by deploying aircraft that combine the advantages of both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Currently in Japan, six CV-22 Ospreys designed for the U.S. Air Force are deployed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo. Twenty-four MV-22 Ospreys developed for the U.S. Marine Corps also are stationed at the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

The CV-22 possesses enhanced abilities to fly at night or at low altitudes. They are expected to be used for special operations, such as penetrating enemy territory to target a specific person in a sudden assault.

There have been accidents involving the CV-22 overseas.

In 2010, a CV-22 crashed during a mission in Afghanistan after descending at higher than normal speed, killing four people. Five people were injured in 2012 when a CV-22 hit a tree during training for two such aircraft flying in formation in Florida.

The MV-22 has been deployed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly as a transport aircraft.

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force possesses the V-22, which is based on the MV-22. It is equipped with radio and other communications equipment modified according to the GSDF’s specifications.

“We cannot rule out the possibility the control system malfunctioned [in the latest accident], but, given that there was some time between the time when trouble occurred and the fall, I wonder if the pilot could have managed to control the aircraft,” said Noboru Yamaguchi, a professor at the International University of Japan and former GSDF helicopter pilot. He said the possibility is high that the accident was caused by trouble that occurred in the engine, transmission or other power systems.

“The Osprey is an aircraft with a statistically high level of safety. Japan and the United States must cooperate and do their utmost to investigate the cause of the accident for the peace of mind of residents and for the future operation of the aircraft,” he said.