OKINAWA, JAPAN – The Marine Corps has begun crashing its MV-22 Ospreys on Okinawa, a top Marine general has confirmed.
Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, told Duffel Blog that Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265, Motto: Look Out Below!) had crashed its first Osprey on the island at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma on Oct. 1 and will begin crashing additional Ospreys just as soon as they can be scraped off the tarmac of MCAS Iwakuni.
The MV-22 Osprey, known affectionately by its crews as The Flying Pinto, is a revolutionary vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that can fly like a plane and hover like a block of cement.
It's operated with an exceptional safety record ever since the first one spontaneously blew up on the assembly line and has a history of outstanding operational crashes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Libya since the Marine Corps first began fielding them in 2005.
"If you use the key metric of crashes while in-flight, the Osprey is the safest aircraft ever fielded in history," Robling said, before adding that all of the Osprey's crashes have occurred on the ground.
Robling also said that after an extensive crash-test program, the Ospreys had been cleared to pancake into Japanese houses, hospitals, nuclear power facilities, and other landmarks, as well as the occasional general officer's career.
"HMM-265 spent the last few months practicing orientation crashes on the [Japanese] mainland, so the crews could get used to crashing the aircraft in and around Okinawa,” Robling said.
"They've practiced low-speed crashes, high-speed crashes, day crashes, night crashes, crashes in any type of weather you can imagine."
Many of the pilots of HMM-265 are excited about the upcoming move.
"My grandfather actually crashed his F4U Corsair into Shuri Castle back in 1945, and my father crashed his CH-46 onto some of the same airfields I'm going to be flying into," said Osprey pilot Capt. Sam Fulco.
Previously, the government of Okinawa had opposed allowing the Osprey to crash into Japanese soil after expressing concerns about its crash-worthiness.
Okinawa's governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, has argued that Japan has some of the highest crash standards in the world, many dating back to 1944.
"We don't just allow anyone to crash their planes into our island without ensuring that they will do so in a way that takes into account both our history and culture," Nakaima said.
Gen. Robling said that HMM-265's Ospreys have been specially-modified for Okinawa crashes.
"We've installed extra-leaky hydraulics and special flight-control software, so that as soon as the nose impacts the ground the tiltrotors are automatically jettisoned in different directions, before exploding on their own, ensuring the maximum amount of damage."
In addition, all Osprey crews will carry little rice cakes to hand out to any homeowners they inconvenience and have been repeatedly drilled on the proper Okinawan way to say "Forgiveness, please."
Robling said that while the Marine Corps will conduct its crashes in the most Japanese way possible, "we do respectfully refuse their request that at least 25 percent of our crashes be into American warships."
"We won't go any higher than 8 percent," he added.