Search on after Marines aircraft ‘mishap’ off Australia

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The incident involved an MV-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter

Sydney — A search and rescue operation was underway Saturday for service members involved in the “mishap” of an aircraft off the east coast of Australia, U.S. Marine officials said.

Ships, small boats and aircraft from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group were conducting the operation following the incident involving an MV-22 Osprey, the Marine base Camp Butler in Japan said in a statement.

The Marine base said 23 of 26 personnel aboard the aircraft have been rescued after Saturday’s crash.

The MV-22 Osprey involved in the mishap was conducting regularly scheduled operations when it crashed into the water. The ship’s small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search and rescue efforts, according to the statement.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the 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 Osprey aircraft were 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.

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.

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.

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