Australian navy divers began work Monday to recover a U.S. military aircraft that went down two days ago, leaving three Marines presumed dead.
A statement from the U.S. Marine base Camp Butler in Japan did not give details on the possible cause of the crash or how long it could take to bring up the submerged wreckage of the MV-22 Osprey, which went down Saturday off Australia’s eastern coast during regularly scheduled operations with 26 personnel onboard. All but the three Marines were rescued.
The aircraft was located earlier Monday, said Australia’s defense minister, Marise Payne. An Australian navy ship arrived in Shoalwater Bay in Queensland state Sunday night to help the U.S. military hunt for the MV-22 Osprey.
The Marine Corps announced in a news release Saturday night that it was suspending a search for the three Marines. The Osprey was conducting operations from an amphibious assault ship — a large aircraft carrier-type vessel designed for launching helicopters — when it went into the water, the Marine Corps said in a statement. The incident is under investigation, and it is unclear why the Osprey crashed, though landing and taking off from ships at sea is often difficult and inherently dangerous.
The aircraft was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 and was operating with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.
The MV-22 is a hybrid-type aircraft that can take off and land as a helicopter but transitions its two engines to fly like an airplane in midflight. The aircraft had a turbulent development history and was involved in multiple fatal crashes.
The 31st MEU — based out of Okinawa, Japan — comprises roughly 2,200 Marines and U.S. Navy sailors. Operating from a collection of ships, the unit acts as a standby force that is almost constantly deployed in the Pacific. Late last month, parts of the MEU were training in Queensland, Australia.
The crash is just the latest mishap for Marine Corps aircraft. Last month, a cargo plane carrying 15 Marines and one sailor crashed in western Mississippi, killing all aboard. The incident was one of the deadliest military aviation accidents in decades, and it still remains unclear what brought the aircraft down.
John Wagner contributed to this report, which has been updated.