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Crew rescued after U.S. fighter jet crashes into sea off Okinawa

AFP-JIJI, Staff Report

A U.S. navy fighter jet crashed into the sea off the southern island of Okinawa on Monday, Japan’s Defense Ministry has said.

Two crew members who had been aboard the F/A-18 fighter jet were rescued alive.

The jet crashed some 250 kilometers (156 miles) east-southeast of Okinawa’s capital city, Naha, at around 11:45 a.m., said Osamu Kosakai, spokesman for the ministry’s Okinawa defense bureau.

The two crew members ejected and were rescued by a U.S. military helicopter, he said, adding that the accident was “not life-threatening.”

The fighter jet crashed “due to engine trouble,” he said.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement that an F/A-18 deployed with the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had experienced a “mechanical issue that resulted in the crew ejecting while conducting routine operations” in the Philippine Sea.

It said the crew had been immediately and safely recovered by search and rescue aircraft from the Reagan, and brought back to the ship for evaluation by medical personnel.

Both aviators were in good condition.

The 7th Fleet said the crash was being investigated.

The carrier, home-ported at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, is currently conducting operations in the region.

The Japan Coast Guard “dispatched an aircraft to the waters to see if there is any debris or floating oil,” a spokesman said.

Okinawa accounts for less than 1 percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.

For decades, Okinawa residents have been asking for some of the bases to be moved, with resentment growing after a string of accidents and crimes committed by U.S. military personnel and base workers.