WASHINGTON – The U.S. military said Sunday it has categorized the fatal crash involving a fighter jet and a tanker plane off Kochi Prefecture last week as a “Class A” mishap, the most severe category on its four-level scale.
The accident occurred when an FA-18 fighter jet and a KC-130 tanker plane, both based in the nation, collided in midair early Thursday when conducting training that included refueling. A conclusion has not yet been reached on the details of the situation, according to the U.S. 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Self-Defense Forces personnel rescued the two crew members of the FA-18, but one of them, Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, later died.
Searches by Japanese authorities and U.S. forces for the remaining five marines, who are believed to have been aboard the KC-130, are still underway in an area of the Pacific Ocean about 100 km (60 miles) south of Cape Muroto in Kochi Prefecture.
“We are using all available capability in this search. Thus far, both U.S. and Japanese air and maritime assets have been involved in the effort to find these five brave Marines,” U.S. Forces Japan head Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez said, adding that Australia had offered up a P-8 Poseidon in the hunt for the tanker and fighter.
Martinez lauded the efforts to track the aircraft down, especially those by the SDF.
“Our Japanese partners saved the life of one of our downed aircrew hours after the accident, and I am grateful for their continued support,” he said.
The two aircraft were based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
They might have been undertaking nighttime midair refueling, a highly difficult maneuver, in order to adapt themselves to tasks that are required for long-range flights.
In December 2016, a U.S. Marine Osprey aircraft was wrecked during a nighttime air-to-air refueling exercise in Okinawa Prefecture.
A Class A mishap is classified as an accident resulting in loss of life or permanent total disability, destruction of an aircraft or damage worth $2 million or more.