3 Marines Missing After Osprey Aircraft Crashes Off Australian Coast

She added that she had briefed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and had spoken with the United States defense secretary, Jim Mattis, “to offer Australia’s support in any way that can be of assistance.”

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can lift off without a runway, like a helicopter, and cruise like an airplane while in flight. First developed during the 1980s, it got off to a rocky start over safety concerns. One crash in Arizona in 2000 killed all 19 Marines on board.

“It had a very difficult development period,” said Richard L. Aboulafia, an aircraft consultant and analyst with Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consultancy.

But he added that no other aircraft has the Osprey’s unique capabilities and it has proved its worth on battlefields, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. “As it matured, it went well into the safe zone,” Mr. Aboulafia said.

The Osprey that crashed on Saturday belonged to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 — nicknamed the Dragons — which is part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, Japan.

Another Osprey crashed in December off the coast of Okinawa. There were no fatalities, but Ospreys were grounded for a week in Japan. In the past, some residents of Okinawa who were opposed to the United States military base there have seized on the Osprey as a symbol of the Americans’ presence.

Last month, a Marine Corps transport plane crashed in Mississippi and killed 16 service members. Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commander of the Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, said that “something went wrong at cruise altitude.”

The episodes have exacerbated concerns that budget cuts have led to a lack of maintenance, and a decline in mission readiness, for United States military aircraft.

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