Dec 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Ospreys after the latest fatal crash

U.S. Air Force Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland in Feb. 2022. Photo: Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The fatal crash of a U.S. military Osprey near Japan last week has prompted fresh scrutiny of the aircraft that has been involved in a series of deadly incidents in recent years.

Driving the news: The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday the grounding of all its Osprey aircraft to "mitigate risk" while determining what caused the most recent crash, which killed all eight servicemen aboard.

  • The Naval Air Systems Command, which is responsible for the Marine Corps and Navy's Osprey variants, announced Thursday that it was also grounding its Ospreys "out of an abundance of caution."

How many Ospreys does the U.S. have?

Ospreys are a relatively newer addition to the U.S. military fleet of aircraft, having officially become operational in 2007.

  • Ospreys can take off and land vertically like other helicopters but can fly faster and have better fuel efficiency, according to the Air Force.
  • Multiple manufacturers are involved in building Ospreys, including Boeing, and each unit costs $90 million to make, per the Air Force.
  • The U.S. Air Force has 51 Ospreys while the Marine Corps has 400 and the Navy operates 27, AP reported.

Worth noting: Japan, the only other country that operates Ospreys, grounded all 14 of its aircraft following last week's crash and asked the U.S. to suspend its Osprey flights in the country, per Reuters.

How many Ospreys have crashed?

There have been more than 40 accidents involving Ospreys around the world since the aircraft entered into service in 2007, resulting in more than 30 deaths, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

  • 20 of the fatalities occurred within the last two years.
  • In August, three U.S. Marines died after an Osprey carrying 23 people crashed in Australia during a routine exercise.
  • Last year, five Marines died after an Osprey crashed during a training mission in California.

What's causing the Osprey crashes?

While the underlying cause of the Japanese crash remains unknown, a preliminary investigation indicated that it might have been caused by a material failure with the aircraft, the Air Force said.

  • The cause of the Australian Osprey crash remains under investigation, per AP. The Department of Defense directed questions to the Marine Corps, which did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment regarding the status of the probe.
  • The crash in California was caused by an aircraft clutch problem. The investigation found no error on the part of the pilots, aircrew, or the maintenance team that prepared the aircraft, the U.S. Marines said this summer.
  • The crash in Norway was determined to have been caused by pilot error, the Marine Corps Times reported.
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