By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: August 5, 2017
SYDNEY — Search and rescue operations were underway for three U.S. Marines who were missing after their Osprey aircraft crashed into the sea off the east coast of Australia on Saturday while trying to land.
Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard the aircraft have been rescued, the Marine base Camp Butler in Japan said in a statement.
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 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like an airplane. They have been involved in a series of high-profile crashes in recent years.
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.
"I can confirm no Australian Defence Force personnel were on board the aircraft," Payne said in a statement. "The United States are leading the search and recovery effort."
Payne said she had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "to offer Australia's support in any way that can be of assistance."
The White House said that President Donald Trump was briefed on the matter by his chief of staff, John Kelly.
In 2015, a U.S. Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Hawaii, killing two Marines. Last December, a U.S. military Osprey crash-landed off Japan's southern island of Okinawa. Its five crew members were rescued safely. And in January, three U.S. soldiers were wounded in the "hard landing" of an Osprey in Yemen.
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit MV-22 Osprey mishap III Marine Expeditionary Force Press ReleasesAugust 5, 2017MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan - Search and rescue operations continue for three U.S. Marines that were aboard an MV-22 Osprey involved in a mishap off of the east coast of Australia around 4:00 p.m. Aug. 5. Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard have been rescued. The MV-22 was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when the aircraft entered the water. The ship's small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search and rescue efforts. The 31st MEU is currently operating with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group as part of a regularly-scheduled deployment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time. Media can contact III Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs at IIIMEFPAO@usmc.mil.
According to VMM-265 pilot Capt. Charles Randolph, the Osprey’s main role at Talisman Saber was troop transport for ground assaults, operating either from the ships or as part of shore-based detachments. This included combined air assaults with U.S. Army and Australian helicopter assets also at the exercise, with the Osprey’s speed used to good effect to move troops around when conducting rapid flanking maneuvers on the ground.
Randolph praised the Australian forces with whom the Marines exercised, telling Defense News that “everything that we‘ve been doing with the Australians — extremely professional, they’re highly knowledgeable and very good at what they do.” The pilot also reveled in the vastness of the training areas available where the Ospreys “have lots of room to maneuver, and it lets us use the aircraft to maximize its capabilities” compared to the smaller and more restrictive training areas in Japan.
Another Pacific-based Marine Osprey squadron, VMM-268, currently has four aircraft assigned to the Marine Rotational Force — Darwin as part of the annual six-month, dry-season Marine rotation to northern Australia. The Ospreys left their base at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on April 19, 2017, and flew approximately 6,000 miles in about 21 hours, making scheduled stops at Wake Island and Guam.
That mission marked the first time ever the Osprey made a trans-Pacific flight, and it was achieved with support from Marine KC-130J Hercules tankers. According to Marine Corps Forces Pacific, self-deploying the Ospreys saved the Marine Corps the four to six weeks it would have taken to transport them using contracted shipping.