Rescue mission in Japan afoot after two US Marine aircraft collide

Published: December 06, 2018 16:56:17 | Updated: December 07, 2018 15:17:56

One of the two planes involved in the incident was a KC-130 refuelling tanker (like the one seen in this archive picture) - Reuters

A big search and rescue operation is continuing in Japan for five missing US Marines after two aircraft with seven crew collided and crashed into the sea.

Two Marines were rescued. One is in "fair condition", while the other "is being transported to a local hospital for evaluation", Marines officials say.

The planes involved are a KC-130 and an F/A-18 based at Iwakuni near Hiroshima, Marines officials say.

US media say they crashed during a mid-air refuelling exercise.

The Marine Corps has not officially confirmed this, describing the incident as a "mishap".

Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said nine Japanese aircraft and three vessels were taking part in the rescue operation.

The US 7th Fleet is supporting the operation, with navy aircraft being deployed.
A Marines statement said: "We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force's efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation."

The Marines Corps tweeted that the incident occurred at about 02:00 local time on Thursday (17:00 GMT Wednesday).

The first Marine was rescued about four hours later, Japanese officials said, while the second was found 10 hours after the collision.

They said one of those rescued was from the fighter jet.

There were five personnel on the C-130 and two on the F-18, reports BBC.

How did the events unfold?

A Facebook posting by the III Marine Expeditionary Force said the incident took place 200 miles (320km) off the coast.

The US planes had taken off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and "were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred".

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says that air-to-air refuelling is a difficult and potentially dangerous flight operation, especially when done at night.

He says it is not clear what the weather conditions were like but overnight there was widespread cloud and rain across the Japanese archipelago.

The KC-130 is an extended-range tanker version of the C-130 and is used for mid-air refuelling.

The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a fighter and attack aircraft and can carry a wide range of missiles and bombs.

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