An aerial view of the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin endorsed plans to lift months-long ban on flying the V-22 Osprey aircraft, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing U.S. officials.

Representatives from the services that operate the controversial tiltrotor aircraft presented their plans to return to operations in a safe, deliberate way at a meeting in the Pentagon on Friday, the AP reported, citing officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public. Naval Air Systems Command, the department entity that grounded the Osprey in December after a series of deadly crashes took place close to one another, will lift the ban as soon as next week, allowing the services to put those plans into action.

Naval Air Systems Command did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. A Pentagon spokesperson said the department did not have any updates to share at the time of writing.

Service leaders for the Navy and Air Force met with Austin on Friday morning to lay out their next steps, the officials told the AP.

A deadly crash off the coast of southern Japan killed eight Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) airmen on Nov. 29 proved the final straw in grounding the aircraft. It was the latest in a series of alarming and fatal mishaps.

Although Austin is not the authority for groundings, the defense secretary had requested a personal briefing as Naval Air Systems Command deliberated resuming Osprey flights due to major safety concerns surrounding the aircraft, the AP reported. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as a partner country, operate versions of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor primarily for transportation and cargo delivery.

Austin’s confidence in the plans was considered a key factor in the decision to resume flights, the officials told the AP.

The Air Force has identified the responsible material failure but has yet to determine why the part failed, according to a Feb. 20 press release.

In the months since the grounding, service components worked to find ways to lessen the impact of the known materiel failure, including by conducting additional safety briefs and rolling out more conservative procedures for operating the aircraft, the AP reported.

The U.S. will share its plans with Japan, the only other nation in the world to operate the Osprey, according to the AP. Japan suspended flights of its own Ospreys until more information about the cause of the AFSOC crash was available.

The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing, like a helicopter, but can travel forward at faster speeds like an airplane.

The MV-22, a version of the Osprey the Marine Corps operates, has a known issue where the clutch engagement malfunctions that has likely contributed to several fatal accidents in the past decade. The Marine Corps completed a formal command investigation into a June 2022 accident, when five Marines on board an MV-22 Osprey crashed during a training exercise in the California desert, in April 2023, finding the potential issue.

In August, an MV-22 crashed in Australia, killing at least three of the 23 crew members and injuring others.

Micaela Burrow on March 1, 2024

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