Head of US marines Osprey unit in Pacific sacked over loss of trust: US officials

An initial group of Marines bound for islands ravaged by Hurricane Maria board an MV-22 Osprey on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge in the Caribbean Sea on Sept 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - The US Marines have sacked the commander of its Japan-based Osprey squadron "due to loss of trust", US officials said on Friday (Feb 2), following a series of accidents involving the hybrid aircraft in recent months.

Bryan Swenson was relieved of his duties last week "due to loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command", III Marine Expeditionary Force told AFP in a statement.

Christopher Denver, executive officer for the Okinawa-based tilt rotor squadron, has been assigned as interim commanding officer, the statement said, without further details.

The sacking comes six months after US Marines were forced to mount a major search and rescue mission when an MV-22 Osprey crashed off the east coast of Australia.

Twenty-three of the crew of 26 were rescued, but the search for the remaining three was eventually called off.

And in December, five crew members aboard a US Marine MV-22 Osprey were injured after what the Pentagon described as a "mishap" resulting in the plane landing in shallow water off Okinawa in southern Japan.

The MV-22 - a hybrid helicopter-turboprop with a checkered safety record - has two engines positioned on fixed wingtips that allow it to land and take off vertically. It can travel much faster than a helicopter.

However, residents in Okinawa - which hosts the bulk of some 47,000 American troops in Japan under a decades-long security alliance - have protested against the deployment of Ospreys in the country following the accidents.

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