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Defense Ministry, wary of anxiety spreading, denies Osprey 'crashed' off Okinawa

The remains of an Osprey off the coast of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, are seen on Dec. 14, 2016. (Mainichi)

Following an incident with a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft that left it in pieces off the coast of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, the Ministry of Defense was quick to label what happened a "crash-landing," rather than a "crash," indicating its concern toward the possible spread of anxiety about the aircraft's safety.

The tiltrotor Osprey aircraft's wings had broken off and pieces of metal lay spread around the area, testifying to the force of the impact. Two of the five crew members were injured.

The Ministry of Defense says the reasons it used the term "crash-landing" include that the United States military called the incident a water landing, and that all five of the crew members surviving is evidence that the Osprey did not impact strongly with the water's surface.

Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada said, "We believe it was not a case of the pilot losing control, but of the pilot choosing to make a water landing."

However, the ministry has admitted it does not have the evidence to deny that the incident was a crash. It also says that the ministry doesn't have a clear definition for a "crash" in the first place.

The ministry has been seeking information from the U.S. military such as the purpose of the flight and the situation at the time of the incident since shortly after it happened, but it has not received detailed information. The U.S. is heading up the investigation, and Inada and other ministry officials can only repeat their request for information to the U.S. Meanwhile, some within the Japanese defense ministry are of the view that the Osprey "was not violently ripped apart."

Hiromi Nakamura, an aircraft pundit, says, "The aircraft body was destroyed, so it appears to have been a severe water landing. It may have been a crash caused by a loss of control. To determine what happened, it is necessary to examine the degree of damage to the aircraft. The U.S. military must quickly provide accurate information."

Journalist Tetsuo Maeda, who is knowledgeable about military issues, says, "Whether it was a crash or a crash-landing does not have anything to do with the degree of damage to the aircraft. That is decided by the degree to which the pilot had control of the aircraft when the incident took place. When a problem occurs with an aircraft and the pilot lands it in the ocean to avoid further damage, that is the appropriate decision, but we don't have detailed information, so at the moment it is not clear if it was a crash or a crash-landing."

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