Osprey Crash: U.S. Military Needs to Investigate Accident’s Cause, Disclose Information

An Osprey aircraft of the U.S. military has crashed into the sea during training. First of all, it is essential to make every possible effort to save the lives of the crew. The U.S. military needs to investigate the cause of the accident and disclose information.

One Osprey belonging to the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo crashed off the coast of Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. Eight U.S. military personnel were on board, with one confirmed dead in waters at the crash site.

The aircraft left the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and was heading for the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture. Just prior to the accident, the aircraft had asked to make an emergency landing at Yakushima Airport, according to the Japanese government. It is believed that there was some kind of trouble with the aircraft.

The Osprey is a U.S.-made transport aircraft that combines the functions of both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. As it is able to change the orientation of its propellers, it can take off and land vertically and fly at high speed.

Since it went into operation in 2007, the aircraft has experienced a spate of problems and accidents. But the U.S. military claims that the accident rate has been reduced in recent years as a result of repeated improvements.

In summer last year, however, a component failure was discovered, and all 52 Ospreys of the U.S. Air Force were grounded for about two weeks. The Ground Self-Defense Force also suspended flights of all nine aircraft temporarily deployed at its Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture. In addition, in August this year, three people were killed in a crash in Australia.

Any piece of equipment can have problems, but there is no denying that the accidents involving the Osprey aircraft have been conspicuous. The U.S. military must thoroughly investigate whether there are any structural problems with the aircraft.

Immediately after the accident, the Defense Ministry stated that it was an emergency water landing, not a crash. The ministry may have given consideration to the U.S. side, which insisted that the pilot was trying to control the aircraft, but its statement could be perceived as an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

In response to the accident, the Japanese government has suspended operations of the Osprey aircraft by the GSDF. It is quite natural that the government also asked the U.S. forces in Japan to suspend their flights for the time being.

The government intends to build a new camp adjacent to Saga Airport where it will deploy 17 Osprey aircraft in the future, including those currently deployed on a temporary basis at Camp Kisarazu. The aim is to utilize the Osprey aircraft to transport the GSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was newly established in Nagasaki Prefecture for the defense of remote islands.

If local residents have doubts about the safety of the Osprey aircraft, the deployment plan will be hindered. The Japanese government must share information with the U.S. military and confirm that there are no problems with the deployment of Osprey aircraft.

In April this year, a GSDF helicopter crashed into waters near Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture, killing 10 personnel. The Self-Defense Forces have not released the results of the investigation into the cause of the accident.

Trust in the SDF and the U.S. military is essential for the maintenance of bases and improvements in training. It is vital for them to conduct thorough inspections of their equipment on a daily basis and also provide detailed explanations in the event of accidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2023)