A weird thing happened at the Friday Pentagon press conference held by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
Jon Harper with Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, asked the two Air Force leaders: “Is there any plan to deploy the CV-22 to Okinawa or any other place in Japan?”
Donley said: “Yes.” He didn’t provide any other details.
Apparently, the Air Force secretary spoke out of turn because Pentagon Press Secretary George Little issued a thorough clarification on the Air Force’s stance on its deployment of CV-22s to Japan. The Pentagon even took out Donley’s answer from the official transcript.
Japan leaders have fought the deployment of Marine MV-22 Ospreys to Japan over safety concerns. Japanese citizens worried about the Osprey crash in Morocco staged large protests over the basing of 12 MV-22s at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is located next to Okinawa.
Donley caught the Pentagon press corps by surprise because he was the first Air Force leader to say the service officially planned to deploy CV-22s to Japan. The Air Force secretary either misspoke, or maybe spoke too early. The reporter asked his question clearly, and Donley answered definitively and then refused to give more details.
Deploying Air Force CV-22s to Japan would fall in line with the new defense strategy known as the Pacific Pivot. The CV-22 is mostly used to transport special operators. The CV-22 is known for its ability to deliver special operators faster than helicopters. Where would it be more effective than a region that boasts large expanses of water between potential mission sets?
Below is Little’s statement clarifying Donley’s statement:
“The Department of Defense continuously assesses its worldwide force posture. We are seeking a force posture in the Asia-Pacific that is geographically distributed, operationally focused, and politically sustainable.
“As part of the planning process, the Department of Defense evaluates a range of possible basing options for our forces. That process is currently on-going and includes multiple locations in the Asia-Pacific region.
“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 United States has not notified the Government of Japan about the CV-22 because we have not made a basing decision.
“The U.S.-Japan Alliance, supported by a robust U.S. military presence which includes the U.S. Air Force, continues to provide the deterrence and capabilities necessary for the defense of Japan and for the maintenance of peace, security and economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.”