Wreckage and remains of five crew members from a crashed U.S. Air Force Osprey aircraft, which went down off south-western Japan during a training mission last week, have been found by U.S. and Japanese divers. The CV-22 Osprey had eight personnel on board, and one body was previously recovered.
Two of the recently located remains have been retrieved, and efforts are ongoing to identify them. The joint U.S.-Japanese search operation is still working to recover the remains of the three other crew members from the wreckage, according to the Air Force Special Operations Command.
The sole confirmed victim from the crashed U.S. Air Force Osprey has been identified as Air Force Staff Sergeant Jacob Galliher of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, according to the U.S. military. The Osprey, a U.S.-made hybrid aircraft, operates as both a helicopter and an aeroplane, with the ability to take off and land vertically. Numerous Osprey accidents, including incidents in Japan where they are utilized in U.S. and Japanese military bases, have raised safety concerns, with the recent crash reigniting these apprehensions.
Japan has halted the operation of its 14 Osprey aircraft following the recent crash off southwestern Japan. Japanese officials have communicated that they requested the U.S. military to resume Osprey flights only after ensuring their safety. The Pentagon, however, has stated that there hasn’t been a formal request for such a resumption, and the U.S. military continues to operate 24 MV-22s, the Marine version of Ospreys, stationed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
On Sunday, the Japanese coastguard and local fishing vessels turned over collected wreckage pieces to the U.S. military for examination, as confirmed by coastguard officials. Japan’s military also announced plans to hand over the debris it had gathered. Recovered items include portions of the aircraft and an inflatable life raft. However, none of the retrieved pieces are believed to provide insight into the crash’s cause, such as engine-related components. Witnesses in the area had reported observing flames emanating from one of the engines.
The Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which restricts Japanese authorities from seizing or investigating U.S. military property without U.S. consent, makes it virtually impossible for Japan to conduct an independent investigation into the cause of the recent Osprey aircraft accident. This agreement has historically posed challenges for Japanese investigations, particularly in criminal cases involving U.S. service members, drawing criticism for its perceived inequality. Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki and rights activists have advocated for a revision of this agreement.
The recent Osprey aircraft crash is part of a series of fatal incidents involving U.S. military Ospreys and is not the first such accident in Japan. It has conveyed its apprehension regarding the ongoing operation of these aircraft and, as a response, grounded its own Osprey fleet. Subsequently, the Pentagon announced the suspension of Osprey flights from the Yokota Air Base. However, U.S. Ospreys continue to operate in other parts of the region.