A U.S. military aircraft with eight people on board crashed into the sea in western Japan on Wednesday. Media reports indicate that one crew member has been confirmed dead, while the condition of at least two people rescued from the water is still uncertain.
Japan's coast guard found what appears to be wreckage from the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey and identified one individual as "non-responsive." This discovery was approximately 3 km from Yakushima island.
According to a spokesperson for a local fisheries cooperative, fishing boats in the vicinity located three people in the surrounding waters. The representative added that the condition of these people is currently unknown.
On Wednesday afternoon, another Osprey safely landed at the island's airport around the time of the crash, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the local government. Simultaneously, a spokesperson for the U.S. forces in the region stated that they were still in the process of collecting information.
The United States, having committed to defending Japan post-World War II, maintains approximately 54,000 U.S. troops in the country. Many of these troops are stationed in the strategically significant southern island chain, a response to the increasing military assertiveness of China in the South China Sea.
The crash occurred shortly before 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) with witnesses saying the aircraft's left engine appeared to be on fire as it descended, media reported. Local weather reports suggest no adverse conditions at the time of the crash.
Japan, which also deploys Osprey aircraft, announced on Wednesday that it currently has no intentions to ground the aircraft. However, the Japanese government has requested the U.S. military to conduct an investigation into the incident.
The Osprey, a collaborative effort between Boeing (BA.N) and Bell Helicopter, is capable of both helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft flight. It is utilized by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, and the Japan Self Defense Forces.
The Osprey aircraft has been associated with a series of recent incidents. In August, three U.S. Marines lost their lives when an MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, carrying 23 individuals, crashed off the northern coast of Australia. Additionally, in August 2022, five Marines perished in a V-22 Osprey crash in California, attributed to mechanical failure. Earlier in the same year, in March, four U.S. personnel were killed in a V-22B Osprey crash in northern Norway during NATO training exercises.