WASHINGTON – The U.S. is in talks with the government of Japan to address its concerns about the continued operation of U.S. MV-22 Ospreys over Japan following a crash Saturday in Australia.
Late Saturday afternoon, one of the Marine Corps’ Ospreys hit the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay while on final approach and then crashed into the ocean with 26 crew on board, according to a source briefed on the incident.
The Osprey was taking part in the joint training exercise Talisman Sabre with the Australian military when the incident occurred off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
Three of the crew remain missing. Throughout the weekend, four inflatable RHIBs from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the landing dock ship USS Ashland, and four additional aircraft searched a 100-square mile area for survivors.
On Sunday, the Australian HMAS Melville, a ship specialized in underwater survey, detected the location of the Osprey’s fuselage and was set to begin dive recovery operations Monday.
The crash comes nearly eight months after two incidents involving Ospreys in Japan. On Dec. 13, an MV-22B Osprey went down in shallow water off Okinawa after its rotor struck a refueling line. Of the five Marines onboard, at least two were injured.
That same day, another MV-22B Osprey landing gear failed to work, so the aircraft landed on reinforced cushions at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. None of the crew was injured.
After the crash, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera announced he had requested that the U.S. cease Osprey flying operations over Japan. The country, particularly Okinawa, has been wary of the tilt-rotor aircraft and repeatedly voiced its concerns over Ospreys flying over its population since the aircraft were deployed in 2012.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, acknowledged the Japanese request and said the two allies had been in talks since. So far, Davis said, there had been no restrictions on Osprey flights over Japan.
“We’re in contact with the government of Japan, there [have] been communications over the weekend between U.S.-Forces Japan and the U.S. embassy with our Japanese counterparts there,” Davis said.
“We also always take the safety of all of our operations, not just MV-22s, very seriously and we recognize we are guests of the government of Japan there,” Davis said.
“I would also say though these are forces, these are capabilities, these are assets specifically for the defense of Japan,” Davis said. ”So we’ll continue to talk with the government of Japan.”
Defense News reporter David Larter contributed to this article.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."