Federal watchdog to investigate Osprey’s safety record after crash

by Tommy Grant

A federal watchdog will review the safety history of the U.S. military’s V-22 Osprey fleet following a deadly crash that killed eight special operations airmen off the coast of Japan late last year.

The Government Accountability Office’s managing director for congressional relations, A. Nicole Clowers, confirmed the probe in a Dec. 19 letter in response to a request from House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Mike Waltz and John Garamendi. Air Force Times obtained the letter Wednesday.

“GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority,” Clowers wrote to Waltz, a Florida Republican who chairs HASC’s readiness subcommittee, and Garamendi, a California Democrat who serves as the panel’s ranking member. The pair urged the watchdog to look into the Osprey’s safety history Dec. 7.

Waltz and Garamendi asked the office to consider trends among the tiltrotor aircraft’s multiple accidents over the past three decades; maintenance and supply issues that may hurt the Osprey’s mission readiness; and risk management across the fleet, which spans the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

“We believe an assessment of the above issues, and any recommendations GAO may have, will assist us as we conduct oversight on DOD to ensure our military is achieving the required level of readiness while keeping our service members safe,” the lawmakers wrote.

Chuck Young, a GAO spokesperson, told Air Force Times Wednesday that the agency expects the probe to begin soon but did not say how long the work may take.

The Nov. 29 crash of a Japan-based Air Force CV-22, which went down during a training mission off of Japan’s Yakushima island, is the latest in a deadly string of Osprey incidents that have killed twenty U.S. troops since March 2022.

The Air Force has said that an aircraft malfunction, not a mistake by the crew, likely caused the crash. The accident marks the deadliest Air Force mishap since 2018.

The incident prompted the U.S. military to indefinitely ground its entire fleet of hundreds of V-22 Ospreys while the Air Force searches for answers about the latest fatal incident. It has also prompted the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability to launch its own investigation into the Osprey program.

A multinational search effort has recovered the remains of seven airmen from the crash so far; a search for the eighth airman, Maj. Eric Spendlove, is still ongoing, Air Force Special Operations Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Rebecca Heyse said Wednesday.

The Air Force announced Jan. 3 that it had recovered the intact flight data recorder, or “black box,” from the downed Osprey. The service has not yet released any details of its contents.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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