Five U.S. Marines are missing after two Marine Corps aircraft collided in mid-air and crashed into the sea off the coast of Japan. Japanese and American officials said that a F-18 fighter and a C-130 tanker crashed during an air-to-air refuelling operation off the coast of Japan on Thursday December 6th.
The marines were conducting "regularly scheduled training" when the crash occurred around 2am local time, the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement.
Japan’s defence ministry said it had deployed nine aircraft and three vessels for the search. Its maritime forces have found two of the seven Marines who were aboard the aircraft at the time of the incident. One was in a stable condition at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, while the second was found about 10 hours after the collision and brought aboard a Japanese military vessel.
The US military has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and accidents are not uncommon.
Earlier this year, US Military sources reported that aviation accidents, in which at least 133 service members were killed, jumped nearly 40% between fiscal years 2013 and 2017. These incidents have stoked tensions between close military allies Washington and Tokyo and led to protests against the deployment of the accident-prone Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft by residents living near US bases.
Congressional leaders have called the rash of accidents a “crisis” and blamed it on continuous combat operations, deferred modernisation, lack of training and ageing equipment.