US military aircraft crashes in western Japan with eight onboard

TOKYO: A US military V-22 Osprey aircraft crashed near an island in western Japan on Wednesday (Nov 29) with eight people onboard, Japan’s coast guard said.

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard said it had deployed patrol boats and aircraft to the site off Japan’s Yakushima island, but had no further details of the incident, including the status of those onboard.

A spokesperson for US forces in the region said they were still gathering information about the incident.

The crash happened about 2.47pm local time near the island’s airport, with witnesses saying the aircraft’s left engine appeared to be on fire as it descended, Japanese media reported, citing local authorities.

The aircraft disappeared from radar at 2.40pm local time, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

In August, a US Osprey crashed off the coast of northern Australia while transporting troops during a routine military exercise, killing three US Marines.

Another crash landed in the ocean off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting a temporary US military grounding of the aircraft.

The tilt-rotor plane, which can fly both like a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, is operated by the US Marines, US Navy and the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

The deployment of the Osprey in Japan has been controversial, with critics saying the hybrid aircraft is prone to accidents. The US military and Japan say it is safe.

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