Marines missing off coast of Japan declared dead

Marines missing off coast of Japan declared dead

The U.S. military has categorized the fatal crash involving a fighter jet and a tanker plane off Japan's western coast last week as a "Class A" mishap, the severest category on its scale of four.

The announcement marks a tragic conclusion to a search operation that began Thursday, after what the Marines have described as an "aviation mishap" during a routine overnight training exercise, between an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet and a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft.

The two F/A-18 Hornet crew members were found in the hours immediately afterward, during the joint search efforts of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japan Coast Guard and the USA 7th Fleet. The U.S. 7th Fleet, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard continued to comb the area for the five missing Marines for days before the search was called off Tuesday.

MCAS Iwakuni is home to Marine Air Craft Group 12 and the Navy's Carrier Air Wing 5. Its two crew members were rescued alive. A conclusion has not yet been reached on the details of the situation, according to the USA 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

The Marines statement said it has not been confirmed whether the two planes were involved in aerial refueling when the collision occurred.

Kyodo news reported that the airmen might have been taking part in a nighttime midair refuelling exercise - a hard manoeuvre used on long-range flights - when the collision occurred.

Since then, the Marines said the joint search operation had covered more than 35,000 square nautical miles in a span of some 900 hours - but to no avail.

The Marines earlier identified the dead pilot of the F/A-18 as Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Florida.

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

A multinational effort to find survivors included U.S., Japanese and Australian aircraft and U.S. and Japanese ships.

The warplanes crashed into the sea south of Japan's Shikoku island.

The US has some 50,000 troops stationed in Japan, more than 18,000 of them in the US Marine Corps.

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