Japan has suspended all flights by its Osprey aircraft after a U.S. Air Force Osprey based in Japan crashed into the sea during a training mission on Wednesday, killing at least one of the eight crew members.
A senior Defense Ministry official in Tokyo, Taro Yamato, told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that Japan would not use the Ospreys beginning Thursday until details of Wednesday’s crash and safety are confirmed.
Tokyo also asked the U.S. military not to fly Ospreys deployed in Japan until “their safety is confirmed,” except to join the ongoing search and rescue operations at the crash site, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokzu Matsuno told reporters. One U.S. Osprey has joined the rescue operation since the crash, Japanese defense officials said.
Ministry officials said a planned training flight Thursday at the Metabaru army camp in the Saga prefecture in southern Japan was also canceled as part of the grounding of all 14 Japanese-owned Ospreys deployed at Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force bases.
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The cause of Wednesday’s crash and the status of the seven others on board are not immediately known.
A search effort in the area of Wednesday’s crash remains ongoing, joined by Japanese and U.S. officials.
The coast guard, as well as Japanese troops, searched through the night. On Thursday, the coast guard started using sonar to search underwater for the broken aircraft that might have sunk to the sea bottom, at a depth of about 100 feet.
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On Wednesday, Japanese coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa said coast guard aircraft and patrol boats found one male crew member, who was later pronounced dead by a doctor.
U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command said the CV-22B Osprey was from Yokota Air Base and assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing. Six CV-22 Ospreys have been deployed at Yokota, including the one that crashed.
The U.S.-made Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster, like an airplane, during flight. The aircraft has a history of crashes, including deadly instances in the U.S. and around the world.
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Ospreys have had a number of crashes in Japan, where they are used at U.S. and Japanese military bases. In Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 American troops are based, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki had said he would ask the U.S. military to suspend all Osprey flights in Japan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(this story has not been edited by TSA Mag staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)