Marine Corps forces in Japan resumed MV-22 Osprey flight operations today following a crash in shallow waters off the coast of Okinawa last week.
Ospreys from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, began flying again on Dec. 19, III MEF announced in a statement. The Marines temporarily paused MV-22 operations after an Osprey crashed in shallow waters off the Okinawa coastline on Dec. 13 at approximately 10 p.m. local time. Prior to the crash, the Osprey's rotor blades were damaged when they collided with refueling lines as the aircraft attempted aerial refueling operations.
"We have conducted a thorough, careful and exhaustive review of MV-22 aviation safety procedures and briefed [Japanese] Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials," U.S. Forces, Japan Commander Lt. Gen Jerry P. Martinez said in the statement. "While the investigation is ongoing, we are highly confident in our assessment that the cause of the mishap was due solely to the aircraft's rotor blades coming into contact with the refueling line. We greatly appreciate the strong support from our Alliance partner in the aftermath of this incident."
All five members of the aircrew involved in the crash were recovered and airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Foster in Okinawa. In a Dec. 18 email, 1st Lt. Joseph Butterfield said four of the Marines have since been released from the hospital, while one remains there under observation.
The downed Osprey, meanwhile, remains in the waters off the Okinawa coastline, according to Butterfield. He said a U.S. salvage ship, the Salvor (T-ARS-52), is at the crash site with a team of divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1.
"At this time the dive survey team has assessed salvage operations to be complete in 4-5 days with current resources and conditions and based on past experience," Butterfield wrote. "However, they are still assessing the current situation and determining the best course of action."