TOKYO - U.S. military Osprey aircraft crash-landed off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, but its five crewmembers were safely rescued.
The U.S. Marine Corps said Wednesday that an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft landed in shallow water off Okinawa’s east coast late Tuesday. They said in a statement that the crewmembers were airlifted to a Navy hospital at the Kadena Air Base for treatment. Japanese defense officials said two of them sustained injuries that were not life threatening.
The Osprey crash comes one week after a Marine Corps pilot died after his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed off western Japan.
The crash just off Nago City triggered protests on Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment is strong. Many Okinawans were opposed to deploying the Osprey on the island because of safety concerns following a string of crashes outside Japan, including one in Hawaii last year.
“This is what we have feared might happen someday,” Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, told Japan’s NHK public TV from near the crash scene. “We can never live safely here.”
TV footage on TV showed pieces of a mangled aircraft on the coast.
The Ospreys were based at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The base, in a crowded residential area in central Okinawa, is to be relocated to another site on the east coast of the island called Henoko, in Nago, where residents oppose the plan, and Wednesday’s crash added to their anger.
Japan’s Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has asked the U.S. military to suspend Osprey flights until the cause of the accident is known.