With one of the largest and most powerful navies anywhere in the world, the United States has long practiced long-term power projection by having naval vessels and convoys doing patrols in both allied and international waters from bases the world over. One of these groups is the US Navy 7th Fleet, based out of Okinawa, Japan. Normally the image of a powerful battle group with highly disciplined personnel and state-of-the-art vehicles and equipment, recent incidents in its patrol routes have cast a shadow over their readiness. Add to that the latest mishap for the fleet this week, when one of their aircraft went down in the Philippine Sea this Wednesday afternoon.
CNN Philippines tells us that at 2:45 PM Japan Standard Time of November 22, a C2-A Greyhound transport plane crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa, while en route to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Of its complement of 11 flight crew and passengers, eight have been rescued and taken onto their carrier destination, where they are reported to be in good condition. However, the remaining three from the Greyhound have yet to be found, according to a statement by the US Navy.
Ships and aircraft from both the Navy and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) continue to search the area where the transport went down. The identities of the 11 American personnel, both the rescued and the still missing, are being withheld from the public until all of their next of kin have been notified of their situation. The C2-A took off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in the Japanese mainland of Honshu, carrying passengers and cargo for the USS Ronald Reagan, before it went down some 500 nautical miles due SW of Okinawa.
A public affairs officer from the US Navy said that it crashed while on final approach to the carrier, though its exact distance from the destination was not made clear. The exact causes for the transport plane going down into the Philippine Sea has not be determined with finality, though the most likely culprit being suspected was engine trouble, according to a statement by Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
The crash of the C2-A Greyhound transport is but the newest incident in a series of troublesome events for the US 7th Fleet, whose duties include both natural disaster response in the Asia Pacific region as well as responding to possible conflict scenarios in both the Korean peninsula or between Taiwan and mainland China. Two past incidents of note this 2017 are ship-to-ship collisions involving 7th Fleet destroyers USS John McCain in Singapore and USS Fitzgerald in Japan, wherein a total of 17 US sailors were killed in both events.
Photo courtesy of stripes.com