A Marine Corps aircraft crashed off the coast of Queensland, Australia on Saturday and now a massive search is underway.
Military officials confirmed in a statement that an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor crashed off the east of Australia, but has not specified yet how many service members were on board. Reports from the Daily Telegraph, however, put three US Marines missing and feared dead. 23 of the 26 personnel on board are said to be accounted for already.
The MV-22 Osprey was in Australia to be part of the huge Australian-US military exercise Talisman Sabre which just reached its conclusion in Queensland. The military exercise involved 33,000 personnel, 33 ships and 200 aircraft from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada. It also marked the first time that an Osprey made a trans-Pacific flight.
Officials and small boats and aircraft from the 31st Expeditionary Unite and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike group are in charge of the search and rescue operations.
The V-22 has had a controversial safety record, with this latest crash just among the string of incidents that have caused 39 fatalities in 26 years.
Four Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey aircraft were in Australia from the US Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268, landing in Darwin towards the end of April.
The aircraft resembles a cross between a helicopter and an airplane and has capabilities that include taking off vertically and traveling much faster than a helicopter.
Just weeks ago, a Marine Corps cargo plane also spiraled out of the sky and into the Mississippi Delta, killing 15 Marines and a Navy Corpsman in the tragedy.
Officials lamented that years of budget cuts have resulted in 70 percent of the Marine fighter jets being unable to fly due to a shortage of spare parts, and reduced flight hours.