United States Marines’ F/A-18 fighter Jet and a KC-130 tanker crashed into the sea during a nighttime refueling exercise off the coast of Japan, five crew members are reported missing while two have been rescued.
A KC-130 air-refueling tanker and an F/A-18 fighter jet were involved in a “mishap” in the early morning hours of Thursday. One crew member was rescued later in the morning by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and sent to hospital, while another was rescued later in the day, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
One of the two was a crew member of the F/A-18. The F/A-18 had two crew members while five were aboard the KC-130.
“Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine Corps aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m.,” the US Marine Corps said in a statement. The Japanese Defence Ministry said the crash had occurred around 100 km off Cape Muroto in Kochi Prefecture.
The aircraft involved had taken off from US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and had been “conducting regularly scheduled training.” The Marine Corps said the cause of the accident was under investigation, but the difficult refueling maneuver would have been complicated by a lack of sunlight and any adverse weather conditions at the time.
During aerial refueling, the fighter jet approaches from the rear of the KC-130, which has a fuel line trailing behind. An extendable nozzle is then “plugged in” to allow fuel to flow. In-air refueling operations can be disrupted by poor weather and lighting conditions.