A US Air Force CV-22B Osprey crashed off the coast of Japan on Wednesday, killing at least one crew member out of the six crew on board at the time of the crash, officials say. The aircraft crashed at approximately 3 pm local standard time off the small island of Yakushima, which is located at the southernmost point of the main Japanese Archipelago. Shortly before the crash, radar contact with the aircraft was lost.
Hiroki Schimano, a crisis management official at Kagoshima Prefecture, said that an Osprey with a burning engine crashed near the Yakushima Airport.
The Japanese Coast Guard was able to retrieve one crew member who was unconscious, not breathing, and later declared dead. At this time, the condition and location of the five other crew members are unknown. The search and rescue operation by the Japanese Coast Guard, including aircraft and patrol boats, was unsuccessful in locating any other crew. Officials have confirmed that the CV-22B Osprey was launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on a flight bound for Okinawa in Japan. Iwakuni, located approximately 230 miles to the north of Okinawa and 550 miles to the north of Iwakuni, is where the Osprey crashed.
The CV-22B, also known as the V-22 Osprey by the US Navy or Marine Corps, is the United States Air Force’s variant of this aircraft. The CV-22B Air Force variant was designed to perform special operations for the Air Force and features a different radar system and communication system than the standard variants of the Navy and Marine Corps. Although the US military uses different V-22 variants, they all share one tragic statistic: crashes and deaths.
The V-22 has experienced a number of teething problems since 1991 when it began testing. It is not unusual for new aircraft to crash during testing or have some other mishap. However, this is a rare occurrence. Osprey is an exception. Osprey was first flown in 1989 and then began flight tests in 1991. During the nine-year flight testing period, the V-22 crashed 4 times, resulting in 30 deaths. At least 26 of these deaths were Marines. Osprey was first deployed to the Marines in 2007 for flight testing, and then in 2009 by the Air Force. The Navy will not begin flying its variant, the CVM-22 until 2021. The aircraft has been involved in 12 crashes that have killed 26 people since 2007. It has also suffered other serious accidents.
The V-22 Osprey has now been involved in 25 major incidents since 1991 when it first began testing. We know that at least 27 people have died. Japanese Self-Defense Forces also have two aircraft in stock, and another is on order. Due to the poor service history of the Osprey and its numerous fatal crashes, Japanese officials are concerned about its safety and reliability. The governor of Okinawa Denny Tamaki has stated that he will request that US military officials suspend all flights over Japanese territory.
At this point, the cause of the crash is unknown. Neither are the locations of the crew members who remain. At this point, search and rescue efforts continue, but so far, all that’s been discovered is wreckage, debris, and a liferaft. The identity of the serviceman recovered by the Japanese Coast Guard is not yet known.