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U.S. grounds V-22 Osprey after 8 Air Force members died in Japan crash


U.S. grounds V-22 Osprey after 8 Air Force members died in Japan crash

The U.S. military is grounding its entire fleet of V-22 Osprey aircraft after investigators came to suspect a materiel failure, rather than human error, caused one to crash Nov. 29 off the coast of Japan, killing eight Air Force Special Operations Command service members.

The Navy and Marine Corps joined the Air Force in grounding their V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft while the investigation proceeds. Boeing and Bell, which jointly manufactured the aircraft, are “standing by to provide support” if requested by the military, the firms said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, head of the Command, issued the order to halt flights “to mitigate risk while the investigation continues,” he wrote Wednesday. “Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time.”

“The standdown will provide time and space for a thorough investigation to determine causal factors and recommendations to ensure the Air Force CV-22 fleet returns to flight operations,” Bauernfeind wrote.

The CV-22 is the Air Force’s Special Operations variant of the Osprey. All V-22s are able to take off vertically and hover like a helicopter. When in flight, the V-22 can turn its massive rotors forward and fly with the range, fuel efficiency and speed of a turboprop aircraft.

The loss of the Air Force Special Operations Command crew has put the spotlight on previous V-22 accidents, including a June 2022 crash that killed five Marines. Investigators determined that the crash was caused by a mechanical issue with the aircraft’s clutch and recommended replacing equipment after a certain number of flight hours, according to the Marine Corps.

The first operational CV-22 was delivered to the Command in January 2007, according to the branch’s website, and went fully operational in 2009. The aircraft costs about $70 million, with bodies as long as five-story buildings, The Post has reported. There are more than 400 V-22s flying across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fleets.

The V-22 that crashed Nov. 29 was assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing at Yokota Air Base. It went down during a training mission near Yakushima island in southern Japan. Six of the eight crew members’ bodies have been recovered, according to the Air Force. Search teams are looking for the bodies of the two remaining crew members.

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