All V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Grounded Following Fatal Crash In Japan

V-22 grounded
File photo of a CV-22 Osprey flying at Yokota AB, Japan, in 2021 (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

The worldwide standdown was ordered after preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the CV-22 crash in Japan that killed 8 crew members.

The V-22s operated by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have been grounded following the crash that involved a USAF CV-22B  off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan, on Nov. 29, 2023. The standdown of the U.S. military fleets, which follows the one already ordered by the JGSDF (Japan Ground Self Defense Force), that had already grounded its MV-22Bs in the aftermath of the incident, is a consequence of the preliminary investigation in the crash of the CV-22B which cost the life of 8 airmen.

“Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC Commander, directed an operational standdown of the Air Force CV-22 fleet December 6, 2023 to mitigate risk while the investigation continues on the November 29, 2023 CV-22 mishap near Yakushima, Japan,” says the official statement by the Air Force Special Operations Command. “Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time. The standdown will provide time and space for a thorough investigation to determine causal factors and recommendations to ensure the Air Force CV-22 fleet returns to flight operations.”

Following the AFSOC decision, “out of an abundance of caution”, also NAVAIR issued a grounding bulletin that involves both the CMV-22B and the MV-22B fleets.

Before the safety standdown was announced, on Dec. 5, the AFSOC identified the airmen aboard the CV-22B callsign GUNDAM 22 at the time of the mishap.

The V-22 Osprey have a long story of groundings following mishaps. The latest one is the third safety standdown since a U.S. Air Force CV-22B carried out an emergency landing in a natural reserve in Norway and remained stranded there for six weeks in 2022.

A hard clutch engagement was found as the root cause of the mishap in Norway and the Air Force initially grounded its Ospreys to ensure airmen’s safety. However a mechanical solution was not available when the grounding was lifted two and a half weeks later, so the service, as a temporary measure until a permanent solution was identified, modified the guidelines for aircrew to avoid situations likely to cause hard clutch engagement and added the scenario to simulator training syllabus: the aircrews were instructed to land immediately after experiencing a hard clutch engagement. After the latest such incidents occurred during the last weekend of January 2023, an undisclosed number of V-22s were grounded again in an effort to fix the hard clutch engagement issue.

Issues with the hard clutch aside, the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft have suffered several incidents since the aircraft entered service with the U.S. military.

The one before the crash in Japan occurred in Australia where an MV-22B of VMM-363 crashed on Aug. 27, 2023, killing three Marines. An MV-22B Osprey belonging to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crashed in California, due to a dual hard clutch engagement causing catastrophic malfunction of the aircraft’s gearbox that lead to drive system failures, killing all five Marines onboard, on Jun. 8 , 2022. Four Marines were killed in the crash, caused by a pilot error (who carried out low altitude steep bank angle maneuvers exceeding the aircraft’s normal operating envelope), of an MV-22B taking part in Operation Cold Response in Norway in March 2022. This one was the first Osprey crash in 5 years.

Earlier, in 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps suffered three crashes in one year: on Sept. 29, 2027, an MV-22 Osprey crashed in Syria injuring two; on Aug. 5, an MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit crashed after taking off from amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard off Australia. Three Marines died in the accident. A terrifying video of the incident circulated online last year. On Jan. 29, an MV-22B  called in to evacuate one American soldier killed and three others injured in a firefight with Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, crash landed, injuring 2 service members. The Osprey was intentionally destroyed in place by a U.S. Air Force F-16 raid once it was determined that it could not leave the crash landing site.

Another 10 incidents occurred between 1991 and 2016.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.