U.S. military Osprey crashes into ocean near Japan, coast guard says

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A U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed into the ocean near the southern Japanese island of Yakushima on Wednesday with eight people on board, Japan’s coast guard said. The U.S. military in Japan offered no immediate comment on the incident, but Japanese coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying the agency had received an emergency call from a fishing boat reporting the crash.

Ogawa said it was unclear what happened to the aircraft or the eight people believed to have been on board, but coast guard personnel were heading to the scene. Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported that three of the crew members had been recovered, but it provided no further detail on their condition.

NHK said an eyewitness reported seeing the aircraft’s left engine on fire before it went down about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo, off the east coast of Yakushima.

Japan’s Kyodo News cited coast guard officials as saying the emergency call came in around 2:45 p.m. local time (12:45 a.m. Eastern), and it said the Japanese Defense Ministry reported the Osprey vanishing from radar screens about five minutes before that.

Australia US Aircraft Crash
A MV-22B Osprey is seen coming in to land on the USS America off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, in a June 20, 2023 file photo. 

Darren England/AP

An Osprey can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but then change the angle of its twin rotors to fly as a turbo prop plane once airborne.

The Japanese government approved last year a new $8.6 billion, five-year host-nation support budget to cover the cost of hosting American troops in the country, reflecting a growing emphasis on integration between the two countries’ forces and a focus on joint response and deterrence amid rising threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

The Osprey involved in the crash was assigned to Yokota Air Force Base outside Tokyo, NHK reported, but it said the aircraft had departed Wednesday from a smaller U.S. air station to fly to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, which is in the same island chain as Kakushima. 

The U.S. military’s Kadena Air Base is the most important and largest American base in the region.

There have been a spate of fatal U.S. Osprey crashes in recent years, most recently an aircraft that went down during a multinational training exercise on an Australian island in August, killing three U.S. Marines and leaving eight others hospitalized. All five U.S. Marines on board another Osprey died the previous summer when the aircraft crashed in the California desert.