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Five missing after two US military planes crash off Japan

AFP  |  Tokyo 

Rescue operations were underway Thursday for five US marines missing after two American military crashed during a refuelling operation off the coast of Japan, the Japanese defence said.

One crew member has already been rescued and is thought to be in a stable condition, told reporters.

A for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) said another crew member had been found but there were no immediate details of the marine's condition. "The Marine is being transported to a local hospital for evaluation," the said in a statement.

"and the Japanese Self-Defense planes and vessels are searching for those still missing... I hope all the members will be rescued safely as soon as possible," Iwaya added.

The marines were conducting "regularly scheduled training" when the crash occurred around 2:00 am local time, the 3rd said in a statement.

The fighter jet with two crew onboard and a refuelling tanker with five crew crashed into the sea around 100 kilometres off the cape of in southwestern Japan, Iwaya said.

The crew member rescued had been in the fighter jet, the confirmed.

Japan's SDF had deployed nine and three vessels for the search, he said.

"We are thankful for the Maritime Self-Defense Force's efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation," the Marines said.

A for the Japanese coastguard said six vessels and an had been dispatched separately to assist in the rescue efforts.

There are few details about the circumstances of what the Marines described as a "mishap" and an investigation is underway.

sent a helicopter to try to find the but was unable to locate it due to heavy fog and rain.

During a normal refuelling operation, the tanker aircraft trails a hose from the back of the plane with a so-called "drogue", shaped a bit like a windsock, at the end.

The fighter jet then inserts a probe inside the drogue to receive fuel, which it can do at a rate of up to 300 gallons per minute, according to globalsecurity.org.

The has about 50,000 troops stationed in and accidents are not uncommon.

In November, a US navy fighter jet crashed into the sea off Japan's southern island of and its two crew members were rescued alive.

And in November 2017, a "Greyhound" aircraft with 11 people on board went down in the -- eight were rescued and the search was called off for the remaining three after a two-day search.

The US military has also experienced difficulties with its Osprey helicopters, with several emergency landings, a deadly crash and a piece of chopper falling on the grounds of a Japanese school.

Those incidents have stoked tensions between close military allies and and led to protests against the deployment of Ospreys by residents living near US bases.

Iwaya said the incident was "regrettable but at this point we are doing our utmost to rescue those still missing".

"Later, if we get to know the details of the accident, we will take appropriate measures," added Iwaya.

He said that there was no information that any passing vessels were affected by the crash.

Yoshihiko Fukuda, of that hosts the US base where the two aircraft were based, told the city assembly he had asked the military to halt operations until the cause of the accident became clear.

"I will urge the government and the US military to take thorough measures in finding out the cause of the accident and preventing a repeat," said Fukuda.

The US to Japan, Bill Hagerty, said he was sending "heartfelt thoughts and prayers to families and colleagues of those still missing" and also praised the Japanese response.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 14:10 IST
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