U.S. Airman Recovered from U.S. CV-22 Osprey Crash off Japan

December 6, 2023 11:17 AM
JSDF Photo

The remains of five service members from the Nov. 29 U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey crash off Japan’s Yakushima Island have been recovered according to an Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) release on Wednesday. The body of one of the eight crewman aboard was recovered earlier on the day of the crash, and two crew members remain unaccounted for.

On Wednesday, AFSOC announced that the three service members remaining with the wreckage had been recovered by a dive team. Their identities are being withheld until next of kin have been notified. Search efforts are ongoing for two crew members still unaccounted for.

A release on Tuesday stated that the U.S. military had transitioned search-and-rescue operations to search and recovery operations. “The transition from a rescue operation to a recovery operation occurs when the determination is made that survivors are unlikely,” stated the release, which identified the remaining seven U.S Air Force crew members on the CV-22, as Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota; Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah; Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California; Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York; Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida; Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia and Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio. It was earlier released that staff Sgt. Jacob “Jake” M. Galliher, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was the crew member whose body had been recovered on the day of the crash.

A second release on Tuesday stated that the two personnel recovered on Monday were Maj. Luke Unrath and Tech. Sgt. Zachary Lavoy. AFSOC had earlier announced on Monday that the main fuselage of the CV-22 had been located along with the remains of five crew members.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of eight American troops in a tragic aircraft crash off the coast of Japan. The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country. My heart also goes out to those who were serving alongside these brave men and women in Japan. We continue to gather information on this tragic incident, and we will conduct a rigorous and thorough investigation. The United States is grateful to Japan’s Coast Guard, Self-Defense forces, and local communities – including fishermen – for their search and rescue efforts.”

On the same day, following Austin’s statement, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa sent letters of condolences to their U.S counterparts with Kihara also sending a condolence letter to Lt. General Ricky N. Rupp, Commander, U.S. Forces Japan.

In a Tuesday press conference, Kihara said that the United States told the Defense Ministry on Monday that all Ospreys are currently undergoing safety inspections and preventive maintenance based on the CV-22 accident and that earlier the U.S had earlier said U.S. CV-22s in Japan were not flying. He added that the Defense Ministry was now confirming the U.S. safety measures taken on the Osprey flights. Japan had earlier called for the U.S. to suspend Osprey flights in Japan, save for search-and-rescue flights, until flight safety of the Osprey could be confirmed, while also grounding the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s (JGSDF’s) Osprey fleet.

The Japan Defense Chief stated that, at the moment, the Japanese government did not intend to make any further requests. “It does not mean that our concerns have been addressed. We still have concerns about the safety of the flight. Therefore, I am saying that we still need to continue to receive information from the U.S.,” said Kihara.

Kihara said that since midnight on Monday, Marine Corps MV-22s have flown 72 times at MCAS Futenma, four times at Kadena Air Base and 16 times at Amami Airport, while U.S. Navy CMV-22s have flown twice at Futenma and 14 times at Kadena. Two Marine Corps MV-22s are operating at Amami Airport as part of the CV-22 search-and-recovery operations.

Japan’s Joint Staff Office on Wednesday reported that the day’s search-and-recovery at-sea operations were carried out by six Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ships, three Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol craft. The six JMSDF ships are destroyers JS Kirisame (DD-104) and JS Umigiri (DD-158), mine countermeasures vessel JS Uraga (MST-463) and minesweepers JS Hirado (MSO-305), JS Toyoshima (MSC-685) and JS Shishijima (MSC-691).

Flight operations were carried out by 1 JCG Aircraft, 1 JMSDF SH-60 helicopter and one JASDF UH-60J helicopter, while ground searches were carried out by 110 JGSDF service members along the coast of Yakushima.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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