All V-22 Osprey operators ground fleets after crash off Japan

U.S. Navy photo

In response to the recent CV-22 Osprey mishap off the coast of Yakushima Island in southwestern Japan on November 29, 2023, an operational standdown was ordered by all operators of the V-22 Osprey aircraft. 

Preliminary findings from the investigation suggest a potential material failure as the cause of the mishap, the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) said in a statement issued on December 6, 2023, in which it announced the grounding of the USAF CV-22 fleet. 

A similar decision was announced hours later by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), directing a standdown of the CMV-22B and the MV-22B fleets operated by the US Navy and the US Marine Corps.  

The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), which also operates a small number of MV-22 aircraft, grounded its fleet a day after the crash, marking the second time this year that Japan proactively suspended Osprey flights. 

What happened? 

On November 29, 2023, a CV-22 Osprey, which belonged to Yokota Air Base, a joint facility shared by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the United States Air Force, was initially en route to Kadena Air Base. However, for an unspecified reason, the aircraft altered its course to Yakushima in an attempt to land.  

Ultimately, the Osprey crashed into the sea one kilometer east of Yakushima. An eyewitness told local news that the left engine emitted fire and exploded before the crash.  

The wreckage was later located on the ocean floor. All eight occupants were declared dead by the USAF on December 5, 2023. 

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of eight American troops in a tragic aircraft crash off the coast of Japan,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. 

Repeating safety concerns 

The Boeing Bell V-22 Osprey is a versatile military aircraft combining helicopter and airplane capabilities. The tiltrotor technology employed by the Osprey allows its rotors to tilt vertically for takeoff and landing and horizontally for forward flight. 

The aircraft has been the focus of safety concerns in recent months, with a series of Osprey-related incidents in Japan, namely three unplanned landings within a week in September 2023 and another incident on October 19, 2023. 

Another fatal V-22 Osprey crash occurred during an exercise in Northern Australia on August 27, 2023. The investigation into this accident is still ongoing.  

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