Rescue efforts are under way after what Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called a ‘tragic’ incident.
A United States military aircraft crashed on a north Australian island on Sunday, killing three Marines and injuring 20 during a multination training exercise, officials said.
Three had been confirmed dead on Melville Island and five of the 23 on board had been flown in serious conditions 80km (50 miles) to the mainland city of Darwin for hospital treatment after the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed around 9:30am local time, a statement from the US Marines said.
Australia’s defence ministry said the accident happened during the annual Predator Run exercises involving the militaries of Australia, the United States, East Timor, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the crash a “tragic” incident.
“Our focus as a government and as a department of defence is very much on incident response and on making sure that every support and assistance is given at this difficult time,” he said.
Australian personnel were not involved, Albanese said.
The US and Australia, a key ally in the Pacific, have been stepping up military cooperation in recent years in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
Four Australian soldiers were killed last month when their helicopter crashed into the sea off the coast of Queensland.
The aircraft had been taking part in Talisman Sabre, a joint military exercise involving a total of 13 countries, including the US, Australia, Japan, France and Germany, and more than 30,000 personnel.
Ospreys are tilt-rotor aircraft that combine the features of both helicopters and turboprop planes, according to the US Air Force.
It has two swivelling engines positioned on fixed wingtips that allow it to land and take off vertically, but also move at faster speeds than a conventional helicopter.
The Osprey aircraft’s safety record has repeatedly come into question after a series of fatal incidents.
In June last year, all five Marines on board an Osprey were killed when it crashed in the California desert near the Arizona border.
In March of that year, four Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed near a Norwegian town in the Arctic Circle during a NATO exercise.
In 2017, three Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed after clipping the back of a transport ship while trying to land at sea off Australia’s north coast.