On Monday, Japanese media outlets claimed that divers from the Marine Self-Defense Forces and the United States military had found a large section of the wreckage of the Osprey plane that went down last week in Japan’s southwest. The submerged wreckage of the tilt-rotor U.S. Air Force aircraft claimed the lives of five out of the eight crew members, according to official broadcaster NHK. The debris also includes the cockpit of the aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command identified the remains of one crew member, Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher, 24, last Monday, as the only one that had been previously located. The 43rd Intelligence Squadron had assigned the young father from Massachusetts to the position of direct support operator.
Along with its air wing and other capabilities, including unmanned vehicles, the United States Air Force aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has joined the search operation, according to the Air Force. The massive search effort also included divers.
The U.S. Air Force CV-22 disaster last week was Japan’s first-ever deadly osprey mishap. The plane had taken off on a practice run toward Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo. Just before it crashed onto the beach of the small island of Yakushima, it asked for an emergency landing after taking off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
According to those on the ground, the plane went down in flames after it turned over and crashed into the water. The biggest U.S. post in the area, Kadena Air Post in Okinawa, was the intended destination of the plane.
Since the disaster, the Japanese Coast Guard and local fishermen have been searching for survivors off the coast of Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture at all hours of the day and night.
According to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Japan, the United States military has the sole authority to examine the accident and has received parts of the debris that were located in the ocean.
During the inquiry into the 2016 Osprey mishap off Okinawa, two U.S. servicemen were injured, and Japan was also inactive.
The current crash has sparked significant outrage and concern in Japan, a crucial U.S. partner, as it is the most recent in a string of mishaps affecting Osprey globally. In a formal request, Tokyo requested that the United States military keep its ospreys out of the nation until comprehensive safety assessments could be conducted.
Some observers have voiced concerns that the event may harm bilateral ties between Washington and Tokyo, but U.S. soldiers have persisted in flying the aircraft nonetheless.
Japan has temporarily grounded its Ospreys, making it the only other country whose military pilots the aircraft.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, there are a total of twenty-four ospreys stationed at the Futenma base in Okinawa and six at Yokota. The hybrid plane has been in service for more than ten years; it can land vertically like a helicopter and quickly switch to plane mode by adjusting the angle of its blades.
If this week’s Osprey disaster off Yakushima was the worst mishap involving the plane ever, all of the crew members would have perished. But there has been a string of tragic U.S. osprey accidents recently, the most recent of which occurred in August during a multinational training exercise on an island in Australia and resulted in the deaths of three U.S. Marines and the hospitalization of eight others.
In the summer of 2016, an Osprey crashed in the California desert, killing all five United States Marines on board.
The left-wing Mainichi newspaper has urged Tokyo to participate in the investigation of the crash that occurred last week and has emphasized the need to revise the bilateral agreement allowing Japan to host tens of thousands of U.S. forces. This call for revision stems from Japan’s continuous neglect following major military accidents.
Japanese lawmakers recently approved a new $8.6 billion budget to fund host-nation assistance programs through 2027.
At a time when Tokyo is rushing to shore up its southwest flank in response to China’s aggressive growth in the region, the incident is putting a strain on U.S.-Japan ties and may derail Japan’s attempts to garner local support for a planned deployment of Ospreys in the southwest Saga Prefecture in 2025.