Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's V-22 Osprey takes part in the joint exercise "Iron Fist 23" with U.S. Marines at Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima-Prefecture, Japan on Thursday, March 2, 2023.2023. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Navy search and rescue divers have discovered the remains of the seventh of eight crew members who were aboard a U.S. Air Force military Osprey that crashed off the southern coast of Japan during a training mission Nov. 29.
One crew member remains missing following the crash, which prompted the Pentagon to suspend flight operations of the entire Osprey fleet. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command confirmed that the remains were of one of the two missing crew members.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command said in a statement that the body recovered by Navy divers was one of the two crew members still missing. The Pentagon has not released the identity of the airman pending notification of next of kin, the command said.
"Currently there is a combined effort in locating and recovering the remains of our eighth airman," a command statement said.
A preliminary investigation revealed that something went wrong with the aircraft and was not the result of human error, the command said.
The Osprey, which can take off vertically like a helicopter but then adjust its rotors to fly at higher speeds as a fixed-wing aircraft is no stranger to lethal crashes.
In August, three U.S. Marines were killed and several others were critically injured when an Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Australia.
Five U.S. Marines died when an MV-22B Osprey crashed during training exercises in the desert near Glamis, Calif., in 2022. And four American soldiers were killed when an Osprey crashed during NATO training exercises in Norway that same year.
While allowing it to maneuver more nimbly than an airplane but travel at higher speeds than a helicopter, the Osprey has provided the military with flexibility in performing missions. However, the design has come under scrutiny and critics have speculated that the quirky nature of the Osprey may be largely responsible for the relatively high number of crashes.
The Osprey has had a history of mechanical and operational problems since it was introduced in the 1980s.
The Japanese government has repeatedly mentioned its safety concerns and the incidence rate of crashes and that country grounded its fleet of 14 Ospreys after that crash, as well.
Japan has said the U.S. made aircraft is critical to its military buildup in the southwestern section of the country as military tensions have increased with China, but the latest incident has prompted protests and concerns in areas where the Osprey deployments were planned.
Japanese residents and the media have pushed the government to release more information about the most recent crash and have been critical of its failure to ground the Osprey fleet sooner in Japan.