U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley's one-word answer to a simple question today seems to have created some downwash in the Pentagon and -- possibly -- in Japan.
The question: Would the CV-22 be deployed to Japan?
The answer: Yes.
The follow-up question: When and where, specifically?
The follow-up answer: Not gonna say.
Given the sensitivities in Japan to the U.S. Marine Corps basing of Bell-Boeing V-22s in the region, this got some attention in today's "state of the Air Force briefing," the first held by Donley and Gen. Mark Welsh, III, the relatively new chief of staff. Locals in Japan fear the tiltrotors are unsafe, in part because of a tattered testing record early in the development program that resulted in Marine fatalities, as well as recent incidents during operations. However, the platform has been rotated in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan and garnered praise by the Marines and Air Force alike for its agility.
Donley's answer isn't shocking. The CV-22 is a premier platform for use by special operators in need of fast and relatively covert vertical lift. The idea that these tiltrotor aircraft would be based in Japan -- a strong Pacific ally of Washington -- makes sense, especially as the Pentagon is turning its attention to a heavier presence in the region.
But apparently that wasn't really supposed to be a topic of discussion for today, and Donley's affirmation of what we all knew was likely to happen eclipsed the official notification to Tokyo that more Ospreys would be nesting there. Because by the end of the work day here in Washington, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little issued a "clarification.""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."