A CV-22 Osprey from the 8th Special Operations Squadron and an MH-53 Pave Low 20th Special Operations Squadron, fly over the coastline near Hurlburt Field, Fla. An announcement that CV-22s would deploy to Japan was premature, the Defense Department said Friday. (Air Force)
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The deployment CV-22 Ospreys to Japan is far from certain, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's office said late Friday.
In a statement, Panetta's office walked back a comment from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley on Friday that the tilt-rotor aircraft were headed to Japan. Donley did not say when the CV-22s would deploy.
"Any deployment of the Air Force CV-22 to the Asia-Pacific region is years away and no construction has begun to support such a deployment. The CV-22 is a Special Operations variant of the Osprey; as a Special Operations platform the demands for this capability are fluid and constantly changing to react to world events," the statement said. "The United States has not notified the Government of Japan about the CV-22 because we have not made a basing decision."
The Marine Corps late last year deployed MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa, despite safety concerns raised by the Japanese governments and local protests. Japanese officials highlighted recent Osprey crashes, including the June 2012 crash of an Air Force CV-22 during a training mission at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The Defense Department, the statement said, is "seeking a force posture in the Asia-Pacific that is geographically distributed, operationally focused, and politically sustainable."