A U.S. Air Force Special Operations aircraft with eight on board crashed during a routine training mission off the coast of southern Japan on Wednesday, the Air Force confirmed in an emailed statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Emergency personnel are still conducting search and rescue operations for the remaining crew members, while the Air Force is investigating the cause of the crash, the statement said. One deceased crew member was recovered Wednesday along with suspected debris from the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a Japanese Coast Guard spokesperson said, according to The Associated Press, but the others are in unknown condition.
“A United States Air Force CV-22B Osprey from Yokota Air Base, Japan, assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing, was involved in an aircraft mishap while performing a routine training mission off the shore of Yakushima Island, Japan with eight Airmen on board,” U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command said in the statement.
Initial reports said the aircraft originated out the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi and went down while en route to the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, the AP reported.
Japanese Vice Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa later said the Osprey attempted an emergency sea landing, coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa told the AP. Local media reported that witnesses saw flames spitting from the aircraft’s left engine as it crashed.
The Osprey is hybrid aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing, like a helicopter, but can travel forward at faster speeds like an airplane. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps each operate versions of the Osprey.
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment, but the Marine Corps confirmed to the DCNF that the downed Osprey was not a USMC aircraft.
U.S. and Japanese officials said the aircraft was attached to Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, the AP reported.
The coast guard had received an emergency communication from a fishing vessel near Yakushima, an island further south of Japan’s southern main island Kyushu, Ogawa told the outlet. Patrol boats and aircraft responded to the distress call and found what appeared to be aircraft debris, a vacant inflatable life raft as well as one person, who was later pronounced dead.
“The government will confirm information about the damage and place the highest priority on saving lives,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, the AP reported.
The Osprey has been involved in several accidents, often fatal, in recent years, particularly among the Marine Corps. 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.
In August, an MV-22 crashed in Australia, killing at least three of the 23 crew members and injuring others.
Micaela Burrow on November 29, 2023