Japan grounds military Ospreys after fatal crash of US aircraft

At least one person was killed when the aircraft crashed off the Japanese coast earlier this week, after reportedly attempting to make an emergency landing.

Japan has grounded its Osprey aircraft after one operated by the US Air Force crashed into the sea off its Southern coast, killing at least one person on board.

The aircraft was on a training mission when it came down about a kilometre south of the island of Yakushima on Wednesday.

At least one of the eight crew members were killed, but a search has been underway for the others.

As well as suspending its own Osprey flights, Japanese officials said they have asked the US military to ground their aircraft in the country.

But Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said US Ospreys continue to operate out of Japan and that she was not aware of an official request from Japan to stop flights.

Japanese coast guard members pick up some floating wreckageas the conduct a search and rescue operation off Yakushima Island. / Credit: Kyodo News via AP

The Osprey, which is made in the US, is a hybrid aircraft which takes off and lands like a helicopter but during flight can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster like an aeroplane.

Japan’s Defence Minister Minoru Kihara confirmed in a parliamentary hearing that flights of all 14 of the country’s Ospreys have been halted.

He said: “The occurrence of such a major accident causes great anxiety to the people of the region and it is truly regrettable.”

He added: “We have requested the U.S. side to conduct flights of Ospreys deployed in Japan after their flight safety is confirmed.”

A US Osprey takes off from western Japan in 2018 / Credit: AP

NHK national television said a number of Ospreys have flown in and out of a US air base on Okinawa since the crash.

One US Osprey has joined the rescue operation off Japan’s southern coast according to defence officials.

The coast guard and Japanese troops have been using sonar to scan the water for the aircraft, which may have sunk to the sea bottom at a depth of about 30 metres.

There have been at least five fatal crashes of Ospreys since 2019, including one in August which killed three US marines.

They are used at US and Japanese air bases in Japan but the latest crash will rekindle safety concerns over their deployment.

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