A U.S. Osprey military aircraft crashed Wednesday with six people on board off Japan's southern coast, in an incident whose causes are still unknown and that left at least one person dead, according to the Japanese Coast Guard.
The incident adds to a long list of accidents involving such aircraft, the safety of which is now in doubt.
A Japanese coast guard searches for wreckage of the plane. Photo: Reuters
In August, another Osprey ship plunged into the sea with 23 soldiers on board, north of Australia. Three died and five others were taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition.
What is the Osprey?
The Osprey, an aircraft capable of landing and taking off vertically and faster than a conventional helicopter.
The Osprey aircraft, created through a cooperation between aircraft manufacturer Boeing and helicopter specialist Bell, are equipped with two motors on the wingtips, which rotate to switch between helicopter mode for take-off and airplane mode for faster flight.
But the safety of these devices has been questioned after several fatal accidents.
In 2022, four U.S. Marines were killed in Norway when their V-22B Osprey crashed during NATO training exercises.
A Navy Osprey craft follows directions during takeoff. Photo: AP
In 2017, a U.S. Army Osprey was damaged after hitting the stern of a ship as part of another joint military exercise with Australia. The accident left three people dead.
In April 2000, 19 Marines lost their lives when another Osprey crashed during training in Arizona.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military temporarily grounded all pilots not involved in mission-critical missions and forced them to undergo additional training after a series of safety-related incidents.
What happened to an Osprey ship in the Sea of Japan?
A crew member who was rescued in the ocean after an Osprey aircraft crashed Wednesday with six people on board off Japan's southern coast has been pronounced dead, according to the Japanese Coast Guard.
The wreckage of the Osprey floats in the sea. Photo: AP
The cause of the crash and the condition of the plane's five other occupants were not immediately clear, said Kazuo Ogawa, a spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard. Initial reports put the crew at eight people, but the U.S. military later revised the number to six, he said.
The coast guard received an emergency call from a fishing boat that was near the crash site, off Yakushima, an island south of Kagoshima that is in the southernmost part of the main island, Kyushu, the spokesman added.
The department's planes and patrol vessels found one person, who was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, and gray debris believed to belong to the plane, Ogawa said.
The discovery came about a kilometer (0.6 miles) off the eastern coast of Yakushima. An empty inflatable life raft was also found in the area.
"The government will confirm the information about the damage and give the highest priority to saving lives," government secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
An empty inflatable life raft was also found in the area. Photo: Reuters
The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft. During flight it can spin its propellers forward and travel much faster than a conventional aircraft. The U.S. Marines, Navy, and Air Force have different versions.
According to Ogawa, the plane had taken off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and crashed en route to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
The aircraft had attempted an emergency splashdown, Japanese Vice Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa said.
The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft. Photo: Charly Triballeau / AFP
The Kyodo news agency reported, citing officials in Kagoshima prefecture, that witnesses said they saw fire in the Osprey's left engine.
Japan's southern Saga military base has decided to postpone the plane's flight exercises scheduled for Thursday, he added.
U.S. and Japanese officials said the plane belonged to the fleet at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. Air Force officials in Yokota said they were continuing to confirm the information and declined to comment.
With information from AP and AFP