The aircraft is capable of carrying 24 people at a time. Pic/AFP
The aircraft is capable of carrying 24 people at a time. Pic/AFP

The US Marine Corps said on Saturday an active search and rescue operation was underway for service members involved in an aviation "mishap" off the east coast of Australia.

The incident involved a MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Japan, said on its Twitter handle.

Twenty-three people were rescued, but three service members are still missing. Australian media reported the incident happened during an attempt to land on an aircraft carrier. The MV-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft, capable of carrying 24 people at a time in addition to four crew members.

The crash comes just weeks after a Marine Corps cargo plane spiralled out of the sky and into the Mississippi Delta, killing 15 Marines and a Navy Corpsman. About 70 per cent of the Marine Corps fighter jets can't fly due to a shortage of spare parts, and reduced flights hours after years of budget cuts, officials say.