Marines miss­ing af­ter air crash

23 peo­ple res­cued af­ter Osprey ac­ci­dent off Aus­tralian coast

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press and by Jacey Fortin and Peter Baker of The New York Times.

SYD­NEY — U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have called off a search and res­cue op­er­a­tion for three U.S. Marines who were miss­ing af­ter their Osprey air­craft crashed into the sea off the east coast of Aus­tralia while try­ing to land.

The U.S. Navy and Ma­rine Corps sus­pended the res­cue op­er­a­tion and launched a re­cov­ery ef­fort in­stead, the Ma­rine base Camp But­ler in Japan said in a state­ment this morn­ing.

The Marines’ next of kin had been no­ti­fied, and Aus­tralia’s de­fense force was as­sist­ing the Amer­i­cans with the re­cov­ery ef­fort, the state­ment said.

Twenty-three of 26 per­son­nel aboard the air­craft were res­cued, the Ma­rine base said.

The MV-22 Osprey in­volved in the mishap had launched from the USS Bon­homme Richard and was con­duct­ing reg­u­larly sched­uled op­er­a­tions when it crashed into the wa­ter, the state­ment said. The ship’s small boats and air­craft im­me­di­ately re­sponded in the search and res­cue ef­forts.

The air­craft was in Aus­tralia for a joint mil­i­tary train­ing ex­er­cise held by the U.S. and Aus­tralia last month in Shoal­wa­ter Bay. The Tal­is­man Sabre ex­er­cise, a bi­en­nial event be­tween the two na­tions, in­volved more than 30,000 troops and 200 air­craft.

Aus­tralian De­fense Min­is­ter Marise Payne said Sat­ur­day’s in­ci­dent oc­curred off the coast of Shoal­wa­ter Bay in Queens­land state and that no Aus­tralian per­son­nel were on board. Payne added that she had briefed Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and had spo­ken with the U.S. de­fense sec­re­tary, Jim Mat­tis, “to of­fer Aus­tralia’s sup­port in any way that can be of as­sis­tance.”

The Osprey is a tilt-ro­tor air­craft that can land and take off with­out a run­way, like a he­li­copter, and cruise like an air­plane while in flight. First de­vel­oped dur­ing the 1980s, it got off to a rocky start over safety con­cerns and a series of high-pro­file crashes. One crash in Ari­zona in 2000 killed all 19 Marines on board.

“It had a very dif­fi­cult devel­op­ment pe­riod,” said Richard Aboulafia, an air­craft con­sul­tant and an­a­lyst with Teal Group, an aerospace and de­fense con­sul­tancy.

But he added that no other air­craft has the Osprey’s unique ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and it has proved its worth on bat­tle­fields, in­clud­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As it ma­tured, it went well into the safe zone,” Aboulafia said.

The Osprey that crashed on Sat­ur­day be­longed to the Ma­rine Medium Til­tro­tor Squadron 265 — nick­named the Drag­ons — which is part of the 31st Ma­rine Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit based in Ok­i­nawa, Japan.

In 2015, a U.S. Osprey crashed dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise in Hawaii, killing two Marines.

An­other Osprey crashed in De­cem­ber off the coast of Ok­i­nawa. There were no fa­tal­i­ties, but Ospreys were grounded for a week in Japan. In the past, some res­i­dents of Ok­i­nawa who were op­posed to the U.S. mil­i­tary base there have seized on the Osprey as a sym­bol of the Amer­i­cans’ pres­ence.

Last month, a Ma­rine Corps trans­port plane crashed in Mis­sis­sippi and killed 16 ser­vice mem­bers. Brig. Gen. Bradley James, com­man­der of the Fourth Ma­rine Air­craft Wing, Ma­rine Forces Re­serve, said “some­thing went wrong at cruise al­ti­tude.”

AP/WILFREDO LEE

A Ma­rine Corps MV-22 Osprey comes in for a land­ing April 22, 2015, at Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­fore a pres­i­den­tial visit in Mi­ami.

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