May 23, 2024

Within two hours of each other, two Marine V-22 Ospreys diverted Thursday due to “cockpit caution indications” in the aircraft while flying near Japan’s southwestern island chain.

The aircraft landed safely, according to the service, and no injuries or fatalities were reported by the Marine Corps on Thursday.

Maintenance teams are evaluating the Ospreys — which landed on islands more than 400 miles apart — and the aircraft were to return to Futenma Air Station on Okinawa once deemed ready for flight. Outside of the warning indicators, the Marine Corps did not say what specific issue caused the flights to divert.

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“Operating [​​III Marine Expeditionary Force] aircraft safely and effectively is a top priority,” Maj. Rob Martins, a spokesperson for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Okinawa, told Military.com on Thursday.

One aircraft diverted at roughly 1:45 p.m. local time and landed at Amami Airfield, which is on an island about 200 miles southwest of mainland Japan. The other aircraft, which was flying alongside another V-22 Osprey, received a similar “cockpit caution indication” two hours later and landed at Japan’s Ishigaki Airport, which is near the east coast of Taiwan.

The flight diversions come two weeks after a V-22 Osprey crashed during a routine multinational training event in Australia, killing both pilots and the flight’s crew chief. In the wake of the crash, Acting Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith ordered a service-wide safety review.

The safety review also came days after a Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet crashed in southern California, killing the single pilot onboard. In total, four Marines died due to flight mishaps in the month of August.

Military.com asked the Marine Corps whether pilots are operating with an abundance of caution following the review and the deadly Osprey incident, in which 20 other Marines survived the crash off the Tiwi Islands north of Australia.

“Our pilots are trained in a way that ensures a high degree of aviation safety,” Capt. Alyssa Myers, an aviation spokesperson for Marine Headquarters, said in an emailed statement Friday.

“Marine Corps pilots always seek to learn any available lessons they may derive from an incident, especially one that tragically results in the loss of life,” she added. “Any responsible organization such as the Marine Corps should always strive to learn what we can from a tragedy.”

The Osprey is the Marine Corps’ primary assault troop transport. It is also used by the Navy and Air Force, though the lion’s share of the V-22 fleet is owned by the Marine Corps for expeditionary operations that require quick delivery of Marines from ship to shore.

While the Osprey has claimed the lives of more than 50 service members since the 1990s, it has fewer mishaps per 100,000 flight hours compared to other aircraft, according to available safety data. However, that data is outdated by at least five years.

A clutch issue in the Osprey has caused concern for more than a decade. In 2022, the clutch malfunction caused an Osprey — call sign Swift 11 — to crash, killing five Marines. The Marine Corps has said that it has reduced incidence of the clutch malfunction significantly, but families of those who died in the crash last year remain skeptical.

Last year, the Marine Corps reported that another deadly Osprey incident was attributed to pilot error. The Australian crash that occurred last month is still under investigation, and the cause of the crash is currently unknown.

This week, members of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing paid tribute to the three Marines who died during the crash last month: Cpl. Spencer Collart, Capt. Eleanor LeBeau, and Maj. Tobin Lewis.

“The memorial service was a tribute to their valor,” the unit’s post on social media said, “and a reminder that their legacy will live on in our hearts forever.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a new statement from Marine Headquarters on Osprey pilot training.

— Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

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