Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Five missing after jets crash off Japan

REGULAR TRAINING:A US Marine F/A-18 jet with two crew onboard and a KC-130 refueling tanker with five crew crashed into the sea about 100km off Cape Muroto

AFP, TOKYO

Rescue operations were underway yesterday for five US Marines missing after two military aircraft crashed during a refueling operation off the coast of Japan.

One crew member has already been rescued and is thought to be in a stable condition, Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya told reporters.

A spokesman for the Japan Self-Defense Forces said another crew member had been found, but there were no immediate details of the marine’s condition.

“The marine is being transported to a local hospital for evaluation,” the US military said in a statement.

“US military and Japan Self-Defense Force planes and vessels are searching for those still missing ... I hope all the members will be rescued safely as soon as possible,” Iwaya said.

The marines were conducting “regularly scheduled training” when the crash occurred at about 2am, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement.

A F/A-18 jet with two crew onboard and a KC-130 refueling tanker with five crew crashed into the sea about 100km off Cape Muroto in southwestern Japan, Iwaya said.

The crew member rescued had been in the fighter jet, the minister said.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces had deployed nine aircraft and three vessels in the search, he said.

“We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation,” the US military said.

A spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard said six vessels and an aircraft had been dispatched separately to assist in the rescue efforts.

There are few details about the circumstances of what the US described as a “mishap” and an investigation is underway.

Public broadcaster NHK sent a helicopter to try to find the crash site, but was unable to locate it due to heavy fog and rain.

During a normal KC-130 refueling operation, the tanker aircraft trails a hose from the back of the plane with a so-called “drogue,” shaped a bit like a windsock, at the end.

The fighter then inserts a probe inside the drogue to receive fuel, which it can do at a rate of up to about 1,100 liters per minute, globalsecurity.org said.

The US military has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and accidents are not uncommon.

Last month, a US Navy fighter jet crashed into the sea off Okinawa and its two crew members were rescued alive.

In November last year, a C-2A “Greyhound” aircraft with 11 people on board went down in the Philippine Sea — eight were rescued before the search for the remaining three was called off.

The US military has also experienced difficulties with its Osprey helicopters, with several emergency landings, a deadly crash and a piece of chopper falling on the grounds of a Japanese school.

Those incidents have stoked tensions between close military allies Washington and Tokyo, and led to protests against the deployment of Ospreys by residents living near US bases.

Iwaya said the incident was “regrettable, but at this point we are doing our utmost to rescue those still missing.”

“Later, if we get to know the details of the accident, we will take appropriate measures,” he added.

He said that there was no information that any passing vessels were affected by the crash.

Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda told the city’s assembly that he had asked the US military to halt operations until the cause of the accident became clear.

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