Search and recovery underway for missing Japanese army helicopter
April 7, 2023

Debris believed to be helicopter parts spotted in the area, about 1,800 kilometres southwest of Tokyo

The Japanese army has confirmed that a UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter carrying ten crew members has crashed into the ocean off a southern island.

The helicopter disappeared from radar on Thursday, April 6th, while on a reconnaissance mission north of Miyako Island. The head of the Ground Self-Defense Force, Yasunori Morishita, made the announcement at a news conference.

Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force (SDF) has confirmed that one of its helicopters crashed into the sea off the country’s southwestern Okinawa Prefecture on April 6, 2023. Rescuers have been deployed to find 10 missing people, including Yuichi Sakamoto, a senior military commander who was listed as being on board the UH-60JA troop transport commonly known as a Black Hawk helicopter. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and SDF chief of staff General Yasunori Morishita said the first priority was to try and find the downed aircraft and save lives.

Source: Reuters/ TV Tokyo/ Japan pool

Debris believed to be aircraft parts were spotted in the area, about 1,800 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, according to officials. Japanese coast guard ships also found traces of oil that may be related to the missing helicopter, although officials declined to confirm the report.

The government is aggressively building up its defense capability in southwestern Japan in response to China’s increasingly assertive military activity in the region, including Taiwan. The missing helicopter was stationed at a key regional army base in Kumamoto prefecture on the southern main island of Kyushu, and one of its ten crew members is the division commander, Yuichi Sakamoto.

NHK public television had earlier reported that the helicopter disappeared from radar about an hour after it departed from Miyako Island and about half an hour before its scheduled return. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that the Defense Ministry is investigating the incident and pledged to do everything in his power to support the ongoing search and recovery efforts.

The incident has deeply saddened the Japanese military and the wider community, highlighting the risks involved in military operations and the importance of taking every precaution to ensure the safety of service members. The government has expressed its condolences to the families of the victims and has promised to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring the safety of their Self-Defense Forces. He also instructed Defense Minister Yasukaza Hamada to launch an investigation into the cause of the accident and take steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

As the investigation continues and recovery efforts intensify, the thoughts and prayers of the Japanese people are with the families of those who have lost their lives in this tragic incident.

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