OKINAWA, Japan - A United States Navy aircraft with 11 crew members and passengers on board crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

The aircraft was headed to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which is deployed to the Philippine Sea. A search and rescue operation was launched from the carrier, the Seventh Fleet said in its statement.

They later said on social media that eight people had been found and are in good condition. Three are still missing.

Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera told reporters that U.S. Navy officials had informed him the crash could be the result of engine problems. The U.S. Navy said earlier that the cause of the crash was unclear.

The C-2 "Greyhound" aircraft crashed into the Pacific about 90 miles northwest of Okinotorishima, a Japanese atoll, Onodera said, according to a ministry spokesman.

The C-2 is a large, twin-engine turboprop which the Navy uses to carry cargo and personnel to and from aircraft carriers. 

The names of the crew and passengers were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.