Three US Marines have been killed and several others seriously wounded after an Osprey aircraft crashed during military exercises in Australia.
Of the 23 Marines on board the MV-22B Osprey aircraft, three died and five others were taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital in a serious condition, the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin said in a statement on Sunday.
The incident on Melville Island happened at 9:30 a.m. local time.
“The Marines aboard the aircraft were flying in support of Exercise Predators Run. Recovery efforts are ongoing,” the statement read, adding “the cause of the incident is under investigation.”
Earlier, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said some of the other Marines were being treated at the scene.
“We are working incredibly hard and as fast as we can to make sure we can get people to treatment,” Fyles said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered his condolences to the families of those killed and injured.
“These Marines served our country with courage and pride, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today, with the other troops who were injured in the crash, and with the entire USMC family,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
After an incident like this, it’s common for an operational stand-down to be announced, when officials ground a fleet of aircraft while they perform an accident investigation, CNN military analyst and retired US Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton said Sunday on “CNN This Morning.”
Leighton said it’s too soon to say whether the accident was due to a mechanical failure or some other issue.
Two US Marine Osprey aircraft left Darwin and flew towards Tiwi Islands, about 80 kilometers away, on Sunday morning, Australia’s Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said. One of the aircraft crashed on Melville Island, he added.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles expressed their condolences in a joint statement.
“Australian and US personnel have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than a century. Our Alliance is built upon these enduring links and our shared values,” Albanese and Marles said.
Joint military training exercises like these are meant to hone communication and coordination between partners, Leighton said.
“There’s a lot of coordination that goes along with these exercises,” he said. “The Australians are great partners, and those exercises are invaluable in providing for security in the Pacific region.”
It is the latest deadly crash to involve an Osprey aircraft, with numerous accidents involving Osprey military aircraft reported over the years.
In 2022 five US Marines died after their MV-22B Osprey plane crashed during a training mission near Glamis, California. The same year four US service members were killed when their Osprey crashed during NATO training exercises in Norway.
The incident comes just a month after four Australian army aircrew members died after an MRH-90 Taipan helicopter crashed into the sea near Hamilton Island off the east coast of Australia during an exercise that was part of joint drills with the United States.
Generally, Osprey are safe to fly, but the aircraft has had a history of mechanical and operational issues, since its inception in the 1980’s Leighton said.
Previous crashes of Osprey aircraft, according to CNN reporting and US Defense Department news releases:
July 20, 1992: Seven people are killed during testing when an Osprey crashes in Virginia.
April 8, 2000: A crash during training in Arizona kills 19 Marines. The crash is blamed on pilot error, with investigators concluding the pilot tried to land too fast and at too steep an angle, causing a loss of lift.
December 11, 2000: Four Marines are killed when an Osprey crashes in North Carolina. The accident is later blamed on problems with a hydraulic part and a software anomaly in the aircraft’s computer system.
April 8, 2010: US Air Force Osprey crashes in southern Afghanistan, killing three US service members and one civilian employee.
April 11, 2012: Two US personnel are killed in an Osprey crash in Morocco.
June 13, 2012: An Air Force CV-22 Osprey crashes during a routine training mission north of Navarre, Florida, injuring five.
May 17, 2015: A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey crashes at Bellows training ground on Oahu, Hawaii, leaving two Marines dead.
US Osprey crashes into ocean off Okinawa
December 13, 2016: An MV-22B Osprey lands in shallow waters off Okinawa, Japan, injuring two.
August 5, 2017: An MV-22B Osprey crashes off the coast of Australia, leaving three Marines dead.
September 28, 2017: A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey crashes in Syria, injuring two service members.
March 18, 2022: Four US service members are killed when the MV-22 Osprey they are traveling in crashes during NATO training exercises in Norway.
June 8, 2022: Five US Marines die after an MV-22 Osprey crashes during a training mission Wednesday near Glamis, California.