F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets and E-2D Hawkeye plane are seen on the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis during joint military exercise called Malabar, with the United States, Japan and India participating, off Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Nobuhiro Kubo

A fighter jet belonging to the U.S. military crashed off Japan’s Okinawa island, where the military has bases, Japanese media reported Thursday. The plane was reported to be an AV8B Harrier II ground attack aircraft.

NHK cited Japan’s defense ministry as saying the jet crashed Thursday afternoon local time (early morning EDT Thursday), but the exact time of the incident was not known. According to the Okinawa Times, Japanese coastguard sent a helicopter and a patrol boat to search for the plane that went down into the sea east of Okinawa shortly after taking off.

Okinawa houses about 50,000 U.S. nationals, which includes 30,000 military personnel, while most of the rest are civilian contractors. Residents of the island have disapproved of the presence of U.S. troops and U.S. military installations on 18 percent of the island, blaming them for accidents, crime and pollution. There have been numerous protests against the U.S. presence on the island and the islanders have often faced off with the Japanese government over the issue.

Following the continuing protests, the U.S. military announced in July it was gearing up for the largest return of land to the Okinawa administration since 1972.