First Osprey accident in Okinawa; crashes on reef in Nago
A U.S. Marine Corp’s MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft based on MCAS Futenma crash-landed off the east coast of Nago Tuesday evening.
The aircraft had a crew of five onboard and all five crewmembers were successfully rescued. Two of the crew were reportedly injured, neither of them seriously.
The Japanese Government is seeking the suspension of all Osprey flights until the cause of the accident is thoroughly investigated. A Marine Public Affairs press release states that a formal investigation into the mishap has been launched.
The accident is the first serious mishap for an Osprey aircraft in Japan since they were deployed at MCAS Futenma. The aircraft was completely destroyed when it crashed about 80 meters off shore on a shallow reef in Abu, Nago City.
33rd Rescue Squadron helicopter from Kadena Air Base airlifted the crew to the Naval Hospital on Camp Foster.
Japan Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has asked Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, to look into the cause of the accident and provide relevant information to the Japanese side. She also called on the U.S. side to suspend flights by MV-22 Ospreys until the safety of the aircraft is confirmed.
The accident is sure to add fuel to the ongoing sometimes violent protests against the construction of six helipads on a part of the Camp Gonsalves northern training area in Takae. The U.S. made the construction of the pads a condition of returning a 4,000-hectare part of the training area. An official ceremony for the return is scheduled for Dec. 22 to highlight the biggest return of land from the U.S. military since the 1972 reversion.
The crash is also sure to give new ammunition to people opposing the relocation of the MCAS Futenma to a new facility in Henoko.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga has long remanded that Osprey deployment to the prefecture be cancelled and the aircraft moved away from MCAS Futenma.