Marines

US pilot missing after ejecting from Marine Corps jet off Japan

Search and rescue mission under way for missing pilot

 

Crews were racing to find a U.S. Marine Corps pilot who ejected before his F/A-18 crashed off Japan, the Pentagon confirmed.

The pilot ejected approximately 120 miles southeast of Iwakuni at about 6:40 p.m. local time. The missing pilot’s wingman was forced to return to base cutting off the search, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

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The aircraft was assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and was conducting regularly scheduled training when the "mishap" occurred.

The Marine Corps was investigating the cause of the crash.

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A U.S. Navy destroyer, Curtis Wilber (DDG-54) with at least one helicopter aboard, was headed to the crash site to continue the search. Seven Japanese military aircraft were also assisting.

USNS Montford Point, an American auxiliary ship, was also taking part in the search along with three Japanese ships.

Wednesday's incident was only the latest involving the F/A-18, six of which have crashed this year.

During the summer, two of the jets crashed, one of the accidents resulting in the death of Marine Corps Maj. Sterling Norton, 36. Norton's mother told Fox News at the time she wished the Marines would stop flying old planes.

At one point, the head of Marine Corps aviation ordered a 24-hour pause in training operations around the fleet, except those participating in ISIS airstrikes.

The Wednesday crash was also the fourth F/A-18 mishap since October, including an incident in November when two jets collided near San Diego.

A Marine AV-8 crashed in September off Japan.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.