In an incident reminiscent of the two accidents earlier this year involving Navy destroyers deployed in the Pacific, a Navy plane carrying 11 military personnel crashed Wednesday in the Pacific near Okinawa. Eight of the passengers have been rescued but three are still missing. The Navy said in a tweet that the eight were brought aboard the USS Ronald Reagan after their C-2 “Greyhound” transport aircraft crashed while on its way to the carrier about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Okinotorishima, a Japanese atoll.
The Navy said the ship was operating in the Philippine Sea, south of Japan, when the crash occurred at 2:45 pm Japan time. The names of the crew and passengers are being withheld pending next of kin notification.
The plane was taking part in an ongoing joint US-Japan naval exercise in waters surrounding Okinawa. The exercises began on Nov. 16, and were slated to run through Nov. 26. The Navy described the exercises as the “premier training event” between the two navies, designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea operations.
#BREAKING: #USNavy aircraft crashes in #PhilippineSea carrying 11 crew and passengers en route to #USSRonaldReagan. Search and rescue underway. More to follow - https://t.co/QQkcYlAP6N (File pic) pic.twitter.com/Cf53Hdh24h— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) November 22, 2017
#BREAKING UPDATE: Eight personnel recovered following C2-A Greyhound crash and transferred to #USSRonaldReagan for medical eval. In good condition. Search and rescue for three personnel continues. More to follow.— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) November 22, 2017
Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera told reporters the U.S. Navy had informed him that the crash in the Philippine Sea may have been a result of engine trouble. The propeller powered transport plane, a C-2 Greyhound, carries personnel, mail and other cargo from mainland bases to carriers operating at sea.
C-2 aircraft have been in operation for more than five decades and are due to be replaced by the long-range tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.
Accidents involving Navy vessels and aircraft have skyrocketed this year (they were previously exceedingly rare). Following the first incident – where seven sailors died after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippines container ship – rumors that the ship’s navigation system might’ve been hacked abounded. But they were later put to the rest by the military, which relieved the ship’s captain and ranking officers of their command and blamed the lethal accident on human error. In the second incident, the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 sailors dead. Both of the collisions involved Navy destroyers from the 7th fleet. In total, the accidents left 17 sailors dead.