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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

U.S. military aircraft with 8 aboard crashes into ocean near Japan

GOTEMBA, JAPAN - MAY 27: A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) V-22 Osprey aircraft arrives for a live fire exercise at East Fuji Maneuver Area on May 27, 2023 in Gotemba, Shizuoka, Japan. The annual live-fire drill took place after G7 leaders discussed ways to further strengthen defense cooperation at their meeting in Hiroshima last week. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)  (Tomohiro Ohsumi)
By Julia Mio Inuma and Alex Horton Washington Post

TOKYO - A U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed into the sea near Yakushima island in southern Japan with eight people onboard, the U.S. Air Force said Wednesday.

Search-and-rescue operations were underway following the incident, the cause of which was not immediately clear, the Air Force Special Operations Command said in a statement. “The crew’s conditions are unknown at this time,” the command said. The Japanese Coast Guard said earlier that at least one person was recovered from the crash scene and taken to a hospital, where he died.

The Japanese Coast Guard received an emergency call around 2:45 p.m. reporting the crash off the coast of Yakushima, a small, remote island in the Kagoshima prefecture, in the southernmost part of Japan.

The aircraft’s left engine appeared to be on fire as it descended into the sea, reported NHK, Japan’s main broadcaster.

The Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which lands like a helicopter but can transition into a fixed-wing aircraft while in flight, is lauded for its speed and flexibility when transporting troops around the battlefield and at sea. But it also has a troubled safety record and a history of fatal crashes.

In August, three U.S. Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed during routine exercises in Australia. Five Marines were killed in June 2022 when an Osprey crashed in California. There was also a crash in March 2022 in Norway, killing four, and crashes in Syria and Australia in 2017.

The Marine Corps, the service perhaps most associated with the Osprey, ordered a safety stand-down in September for all of its aircraft following a string of mishaps, including the crash in Australia.

Ospreys also were temporarily grounded in Okinawa after a crash in December 2016.