The rate of accidents involving U.S. Marine Corps Osprey aircraft, one of which crash-landed off Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Dec. 13 is not particularly higher than those of any other U.S. military aircraft, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
The number of accidents per 100,000 flight hours for Ospreys stood at 1.65 as of September 2012, prior to the aircrafts' deployment to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. As of September 2015 the rate had risen to 2.64. The latest figure is roughly on par with the average accident rate among aircraft belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps.
MV-22 Ospreys are highly agile and have a long flight range. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) is expected to acquire 17 Ospreys by fiscal 2018. The GSDF intends to deploy the aircraft to an area adjacent to Saga Airport in Saga Prefecture from fiscal 2019 onward, and is holding talks with local municipalities.
With China's maritime advancement in mind, the Defense Ministry is placing growing emphasis on the defense of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are also claimed by Beijing. The ministry is considering using Ospreys for purposes such as transporting Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel in southwestern Japan, including Okinawa.
Ospreys have both a rotor mode allowing them to take off and land vertically like helicopters and a fixed-wing mode enabling them to fly at high speeds. As such, the GSDF needs to train pilots with the skills to fly Ospreys in both modes.
A senior GSDF officer has expressed concerns that the latest accident could strengthen the public's belief that Ospreys are dangerous. "The accident rates for other types of aircraft aren't zero, either. Accidents shouldn't happen, but the latest one could once again give the public the impression that Ospreys are dangerous," the officer said.