A United States military plane taking part in NATO exercises has crashed in Norway, killing all four American troops on board.
The four were taking part in the Cold Response military exercises involving 30,000 troops from NATO and partner countries. About 200 planes and some 50 ships are taking part in the exercises, which will continue until April 1.
The US Marine Corps earlier confirmed “a mishap” involving an MV-22B Osprey aircraft during the exercises, and said Norwegian civil authorities were leading the search-and-rescue efforts.
“It’s with great sadness that we received the message saying that four American soldiers died in a plane crash last night,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said on Twitter on Saturday.
The plane was reported missing on Friday evening south of Bodo in northern Norway.
At 1:30am (00:30 GMT) on Saturday, “the police arrived at the scene. The police in Nordland County now confirm that the crew of four have died. As far as the police know, the four are of American nationality,” the Norwegian defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Cold Response 2022 aims to test how Norway would manage allied reinforcements on its soil in the event that NATO’s mutual defence clause was triggered.
‘A normal procedure’
Tensions between Russia and NATO have soared following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but the exercises were planned long before that offensive began on February 24.
Police launched an investigation into the crash.
“The weather is very bad in the area to complete work at the scene, but police will take it up again as soon as the weather conditions allow it,” operations manager Ivar Bo Nilsson from the Norland police district told reporters.
Lieutenant-General Yngve Odlo, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces’ operational headquarters, said Cold Response would continue despite the crash.
“Right now there is full focus on ending the rescue operation, taking care of the people and then there will be a normal procedure with causation,” Odlo was quoted as saying by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
The first Cold Response exercise was held in 2006, and the drills have been conducted eight times over the years. They take place in southeastern, central and northern Norway.