Marine F/A-18 And KC-130 Collide During Refueling Sending Both Into Waters Off Japan (Updated)

The aircraft were on a routine training mission out of MCAS Iwakuni, which is located in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.

byTyler Rogoway|
Japan photo


Details remain extremely limited at this time, but what we know is that a two-seat F/A-18D collided with a KC-130, supposedly during a refueling operation off the coast of Japan. Both aircraft crashed into the sea. A large search and rescue operation is now underway. 

Supposedly two were onboard the Hornet, which would make it a Marine F/A-18D, and five were onboard the KC-130. Both had launched out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the mishap occurred at around 2:00am local time. 

USMC ATARS equipped F/A-18D refueling from a KC-130. , USMC

We have no idea what happened, but aerial refuel is a very challenging task, especially at night. 

The base hosts a single Marine Hornet squadron that rotates from the United States on a regular basis. Often times these are from Marine Strike Fighter All-Weather squadrons that fly the missionized F/A-18D. Two squadrons were the norm up until the F-35B came online operationally and deployed to Japan. The base has seen serious expansion in recent years and is now home to fixed-wing aircraft belonging to CVW-5, USS Ronald Reagan's air wing, which moved from its long-established home at NAF Atsugi earlier in the year. 

MCAS Iwakuni is also home to the 'Sumos' of VMGR-152, a Marine KC-130J squadron that is highly active throughout the Western Pacific. You can read all about this wonderful unit in this piece of mine. We have no idea if this was the unit involved in the mishap, though.

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We will be live updating this post with more information as it comes available. 

Update: 2:50pm PST—

I have some good news here. One of the lost crewmen has been found alive, but keep in mind that these details can still change: 

Update: 3:35pm PST—

Hearing this happened about 200 miles off the coast.

Update: 4:57pm PST—

USMC confirms that one of seven the crewmen lost between both aircraft is being medically evaluated at this time. Here is the complete official statement:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan - The United States Marine Corps confirms one of the personnel involved in the mishap is being evaluated by competent medical authorities at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. 

The search and rescue operations continue for the remaining six U.S. Marines who were aboard a KC-130 Hercules and an F/A-18 Hornet involved in a mishap about 200 miles off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6. 

We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation.

The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Update: 5:24pm PST—

This isn't too surprising, but the survivor was one of the two crew aboard the F/A-18D. 

Update: 9:00am PST—

Two Marines were rescued, but one has died. The one that lived continues to receive medical care. There is no word on the KC-130 or its crew at this time. A search and rescue effort continues some 200 miles off the southern coast of Japan. U.S. P-8 Poseidons and SH-60s, as well as a number of Japanese search and rescue assets, continue their search for the missing aircraft and its crew.  

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