Japanese Military Helicopter with Top Brass Onboard Crash at Sea

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Search and rescue assets from Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) and the Japan Coast Guard, including ships and aircraft are scanning waters off southern Japan for 10 soldiers onboard a Japanese military helicopter that crashed into the sea on April 6, Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said yesterday.

None of the missing personnel had been found as the search continues. “I will continue to do my best to collect information on the damage and search for human lives,” said Hamada when he spoke to reporters Friday (April 7).

Gen Yasunori Morishita, chief of staff of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), said searchers had found what appeared to be parts of the UH-60JA helicopter in the sea and are continuing to scour the ocean for survivors.

It was reported that an unused lifeboat, a door and other fragments believed to be from a Japanese army helicopter have been found. If no survivors are found, the crash would be Japan’s deadliest military aviation accident since 1995, Japan’s Defence Ministry said.

The aircraft with two pilots and two crew members was carrying six passengers, among them Lt Gen Yuichi Sakamoto, a senior GSDF commander. Sakamoto, commander of the 8th Division, had recently been appointed to his role on March 30, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported.

The Mitsubishi/Sikorsky UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter disappeared on Thursday afternoon while on a reconnaissance mission in Japan’s southern islands between Miyako island and Irabu island. The rotorcraft went missing at 3:56 pm local time after missing from radar screens off the coast of Miyako Island in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, according to the Defence Ministry. Miyako Island, adjacent to the East China Sea, is about 400 kilometres (some 250 miles) east of Taiwan and is home to a JGSDF missile unit.

–ag/dl/mgm (Pix: JCG)