Major Rescue Operation After Two Marine Aircraft Crash With Seven On Board Off Japan

A major search and rescue operation is underway after a Marine Corps KC-130 aerial tanker and an F/A-18 Hornet crashed off the coast of Japan in a serious incident involving a total of seven pilots and flight crew.

Two pilots were reportedly in the fighter, and 5 aboard the aerial fuel tanker when both went down. So far one of the seven Marine Corps personnel has been recovered alive, according to a military spokesperson. 

U.S. Marine Corps file photo

“Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6.,” a Marine Corps official statement said. 

Japanese national broadcaster NHK identified the aircraft as originating from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan and that the two aircraft collided in midair around 100 km south of Kochi prefecture. The broadcast also noted that Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft are currently carrying out search and rescue, according to Bloomberg

However, the Pentagon has yet to release the circumstances of the crash, and said the accident is still under investigation.

The Marine Corps said the aircraft were in operation as part of regularly scheduled training, according to an official news release

The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred. Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery.

While recovery efforts are still ongoing, U.S. Naval Institute News reports that one crew member has been recovered alive, though the Marine's physical condition is as yet unknown, according to a military statement

Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel conducting search and rescue efforts have so far rescued one of the seven Marine Corps personnel alive, III Marine Expeditionary Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Kelly Frushour told USNI News.

The crash is believed by military sources to have happened about 200 miles off the coast of Iwakuni.

Early unconfirmed reports suggest the two planes crashed during midair refuelling, however the US military has not officially confirmed this.