2 Japanese navy helicopters crash during training, 1 dead

TOKYO (AP) — Two Japanese navy helicopters carrying eight crew members crashed within the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during a nighttime coaching flight after presumably colliding with one another, the nation’s protection minister stated Sunday. One crew member who had been recovered from the waters was later pronounced dead, whereas rescuers looked for seven others who have been nonetheless lacking.

The two SH-60Okay choppers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force have been carrying 4 crew every and misplaced contact late Saturday close to Torishima island about 600 kilometers (370 miles) south of Tokyo, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara advised reporters.

The reason behind the crash was not instantly identified, however officers consider the 2 helicopters “highly likely” collided with one another earlier than crashing into the water, Kihara stated.

He added his ministry will droop coaching flights for all SH-60s for now.

The navy chief of employees, Adm. Ryo Sakai, stated the trainings can be suspended till the accident’s trigger is set and preventive measures are adopted.

Rescuers have recovered a flight information recorder, a blade from every helicopter, and fragments believed to be from each choppers in the identical space, indicators that the 2 SH-60Ks have been flying shut to one another, Kihara stated. Officials will analyze the flight information to attempt to decide what led to the crash.

Search and rescue efforts for the lacking crew have been expanded Sunday, with the MSDF and Air Self-Defense Force collectively deploying 12 warships and 7 plane. Japan Coast Guard patrol boats and plane additionally joined the operation.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel stated in a message on social platform X that the U.S. had provided to assist with the search and rescue.

“We will stand together, side by side, with our friend and ally, Japan. My thoughts are with the crew members, and their families and friends during this challenging time,” he stated.

The helicopters, twin-engine, multi-mission plane developed by Sikorsky and often known as Seahawks, have been modified and produced in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. They have been on nighttime anti-submarine coaching within the waters, Kihara stated. One misplaced contact at 10:38 p.m. (1338 GMT) and despatched an computerized emergency sign a minute later. They misplaced contact about 270 kilometers (150 nautical miles) east of Torishima island.

Only one misery sign referred to as an emergency locator transmitter was heard — one other signal the 2 helicopters have been close to the identical place, as a result of their indicators use the identical frequency and couldn’t be differentiated, Kihara stated.

One helicopter belonged to an air base in Nagasaki, and the opposite to a base in Tokushima prefecture.

The SH-60Okay plane is normally deployed on destroyers for anti-submarine warfare, however can also be used for search and rescue and different missions. Japan has about 70 of the modified helicopters.

Saturday’s coaching solely concerned the Japanese navy and was not a part of a multinational train, protection officers stated. They stated no overseas plane or warships have been noticed within the space.

Japan, beneath its 2022 safety technique, has been accelerating its army buildup and fortifying deterrence within the southwestern Japanese islands within the Pacific and East China Sea to counter threats from China’s more and more assertive army actions. Japan lately has performed its personal in depth naval workouts in addition to joint drills with its ally the United States and different companions.

The navy chief of employees stated Saturday’s coaching was a part of routine anti-submarine warfare drills involving MSDF warships, submarines and Seahawks.

The crash comes a yr after a Ground Self-Defense Force UH-60 Blackhawk crashed off the southwestern Japanese island of Miyako, as a consequence of an engine output drawback often known as “rollback,” leaving all 10 crew members dead, which shocked the nation. In 2017, a Japanese navy SH-60J, an earlier technology Seahawk, crashed during a nighttime flight coaching off Aomori as a consequence of human error.

Saturday’s crash and potential collision additionally recalled a July 2021 nighttime coaching off the southern island of Amamioshima, the place two SH-60s had a minor collision, each struggling blade harm, however inflicting no accidents.

Following that collision, the MSDF launched a set of preventive measures. Sakai stated Saturday’s crash may have been prevented if all these measures have been adequately adopted.

In the U.S., a deadly crash of a MH-60S Seahawk during coaching off California in 2021 was attributed to mechanical failure from unsuspected harm during upkeep, in keeping with the Navy.

Japan’s NHK public tv stated no climate advisories have been issued within the space on the time of Saturday’s crash.

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