WASHINGTON – The U.S. Marine Corps is temporarily grounding all of its aircraft following the recent crash of an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in Australia that killed three troops, officials said Friday.
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller instructed all aviation units to conduct an “operational reset” for a 24-hour period where no flight operations will occur, the marines said in a statement.
An Okinawa-based MV-22 Osprey crashed on Aug. 5 during an exercise off the Australian coast, killing three service members, after reportedly hitting a U.S. ship during landing.
The reset will take place over the next two weeks, depending on the schedules and needs of the corps’ various air units.
It will “focus on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, standardization and combat readiness,” the marines said, noting that no operational missions will be affected.
The MV-22 — a hybrid helicopter-turboprop with a checkered safety record — has two pivoting engines positioned on fixed wingtips. It lands and takes off vertically but can cruise like a standard plane, making it much faster than a helicopter.
According to a U.S. official, the Osprey crashed after clipping the back of the USS Green Bay while trying to land on the amphibious transport ship.
The Osprey has been involved in several fatal incidents, mostly in the United States. In April 2000, 19 Marines were killed in an MV-22 crash in Arizona.
In December, an Osprey ditched just off the coast of Okinawa during a training flight, angering residents. Although the aircraft broke into pieces, no one was killed and only the crew was injured.
The U.S. Marine Corps says the problems that plagued the aircraft during its long development have since been fixed, and it is now actually one of the safest in the air fleet.
The Okinawa-based aircraft that crashed was in Australia as part of a joint military exercise called Talisman Sabre, which just ended in Queensland state.
Okinawa residents have protested the recent deployment of the Osprey to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which sits in the middle of a crowded residential area.