The US military recently released a report on the investigation of the December 6th, 2018 crash between an F/A-18D Hornet and a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft that killed 6 Marines and injured one off the coast of Japan.
The accident was a midair collision between the F/A-18D Hornet and its two-person crew and the five-person crew of the KC-130J Super Hercules. The sole survivor of the accident was the F/A-18D Hornet’s weapons officer.
Immediately after the crash, 2 marines were found, with 1 passing away in hospital, and the search for the remaining 5 continuing for a while, before they were pronounced dead.
The entire 1,600-page reported can be found here [pdf], provided by USNI News.
Another, internal US military report was provided to the Japanese government. The report wasn’t focused on the specific accident, but on general Marine Corps conduct in Japan.
Specifically, regarding the December 6th, 2018 incident, the report said that a component of a sleep-inducing drug was found in the urine of two crew members on the jet, suggesting they were “not medically fit for flight duties at the time of the mishap”.
According to it several members based at US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in western Japan were found to have shown stark unprofessionalism. In one instance, a pilot was found to have shared a selfie taken during a flight on social media.
Another officer shared a selfie showing him reading a book (“The Greant Santini”, in which the main character is a Marine Corps pilot) with both hands off the controls and his mask off, while a third shared a selfie where he was pictured with his mask off and grooming his mustache with a comb. Both images had been taken in-flight, the report said.
Pilots were also taken excessive amounts of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and consuming alcohol, among other things.
“Examples of such unprofessionalism included prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, adultery, orders violations, and failures in following fundamental principles of professional aviation training and operations,” the report said.
Four officers were dismissed following the selfie revelations, Kyodo news agency said. They included the commanding officer, who had posted a photo on his WhatsApp profile showing him without his oxygen mask and with his visor up.
The report said that a climate of unprofessionalism in the unit was a factor in the 2018 crash, adding that it could have been prevented by an investigation into the accident in 2016.
The same unit was also involved in a midair crash off Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture on April 28, 2016, in which an F/A-18 fighter jet hit an air tanker and made contact with the fueling hose. Which prompted that earlier investigation, that, quite obviously, led to nothing at all.
The Japanese Defense Ministry requested to be provided with all information regarding the 2016 incident as well.
The report, expectedly angered Tokyo, Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese foreign minister said.
“Detailed examination showed that one of the causes of the accident was that rules violations had become normalized in the unit that caused the accident,” he said.
Tsugumasa Muraoka, the governor of Yamaguchi prefecture, where the unit’s Iwakuni base is located, described the pilots’ mid-flight antics as “outrageous”.
“They’re extremely dangerous behaviors,” said 74-year-old Jungen Tamura, a former member of the Iwakuni Municipal Assembly who monitors activities at the Iwakuni base. “They could cause an accident and (they) need to suspend flights immediately.”
A month before the midair collision, in November 2018, a US navy fighter jet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan plunged into the sea off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. Its two crew members were rescued alive.
Earlier in 2018, a MH-60 Seahawk crashed on the Ronald Reagan’s flight deck shortly after takeoff in the Philippine Sea, injuring a dozen sailors.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- ‘F-35 Curse’: Another F-35 Crashed During Training Mission, Now In Japan
- Japan To “Defensively” Retrofit JS Izumo Helicopter Destroyer For F-35 Jets