U.S. military Osprey crashes into ocean near southern Japan island

A U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed into the ocean Wednesday near the small southern Japanese island of Yakushima with six people on board, killing at least one crew member, Japan’s coast guard said. The U.S. military in Japan offered no immediate comment on the incident, but an official with the Japan Coast Guard confirmed to CBS News that one crew member was recovered dead and search operations were continuing into the night for the other five people from the Osprey

The official told CBS News that two helicopters and six boats were involved in the search operation.

Coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa was quoted earlier by the AFP news agency as saying an emergency call came in from a fishing boat to report the crash. He said there were eight people on the Osprey, but the coast guard later revised that figure to six.

Ogawa said it was unclear what happened to the aircraft or those on board. 

Japanese national broadcaster NHK aired video from a helicopter showing a coast guard vessel at the site with one bright orange inflatable life raft seen on the water, but nobody in it.  

A MV-22B Osprey is seen coming in to land on the USS America off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, in a June 20, 2023 file photo. 
Darren England/AP

NHK said an eyewitness reported seeing the aircraft’s left engine on fire before it went down about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo, off the east coast of Yakushima.

Japan’s Kyodo News cited coast guard officials as saying the first emergency call came in around 2:45 p.m. local time (12:45 a.m. Eastern), and it said the Japanese Defense Ministry reported the Osprey dropping off radar screens about five minutes before that.

An Osprey can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but then change the angle of its twin rotors to fly as a turbo prop plane once airborne.

A U.S. Air Force Bell Boeing V22 Osprey flies in front of the air-traffic control tower at Yokota airbase, during the 47th Japanese-American Friendship Festival in Fussa, Japan, May 20, 2023. 
Damon Coulter/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

The Japanese government approved last year a new $8.6 billion, five-year host-nation support budget to cover the cost of hosting American troops in the country, reflecting a growing emphasis on integration between the two countries’ forces and a focus on joint response and deterrence amid rising threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

The Osprey involved in the crash was assigned to Yokota Air Force Base outside Tokyo, NHK reported, but it said the aircraft had departed Wednesday from the smaller U.S. air station Iwakuni to fly to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, which is in the same island chain as the tiny island of Yakushima. The small island sits just south of Kagushima prefecture, on Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu.


The U.S. military’s Kadena Air Base is the most important and largest American base in the region.

There have been a spate of fatal U.S. Osprey crashes in recent years, most recently an aircraft that went down during a multinational training exercise on an Australian island in August, killing three U.S. Marines and leaving eight others hospitalized. All five U.S. Marines on board another Osprey died the previous summer when the aircraft crashed in the California desert.

An Osprey crashed in shallow water just off the Japanese island of Okinawa in 2016, but all the U.S. Marines on board survived that incident. 

CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer and Lucy Craft in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Tucker Reals

Tucker Reals is cbsnews.com’s foreign editor, based in the CBS News London bureau. He has worked for CBS News since 2006, prior to which he worked for The Associated Press in Washington D.C. and London.

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