May 23, 2024

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Two Japanese military helicopters crash, one dead and seven missing

Two Japanese military helicopters crash, one dead and seven missing

Two Japan Self-Defense Force (JSF) helicopters crashed into the sea on Saturday evening, leaving one crew member dead and seven others still missing, Japanese officials said on Sunday.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters that the plane was “participating in night anti-submarine warfare exercises.”

“At present, the cause (of the accident, editor's note) is unknown, and in the immediate future, we prioritize saving lives.” Possible debris from these devices was found by marine salvage services, the minister added.

The Ministry of Defense later confirmed that one crew member had been found but died and seven others were still missing.

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the helicopters crashed off the coast of the Izu Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Communication with one of the devices was lost at 10:38pm local time (1:38pm GMT on Saturday). About 25 minutes later, officials realized communications with the second helicopter had also been lost, according to NHK.

These are two Mitsubishi SH-60K, Japanese-made patrol helicopters belonging to the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the naval branch of the FJA.

A year ago, another Japanese model (UH-60JA) military helicopter crashed into the sea off Okinawa (southwest of Japan), killing ten people on board.

In November, a US military aircraft carrier Osprey based in Japan crashed into the sea, killing eight of its crew.

The latest fatal accident involving the hybrid aircraft, which can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, has forced the US military to ground all its Ospreys worldwide for three months. An inquiry into the circumstances of this new tragedy.

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Osprey flights resumed in early March, including in Japan, after the US military made changes to the aircraft's maintenance and procedures.

Japan, a close US ally, has been significantly increasing its defense budget in response to growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific amid China's increasingly assertive territorial claims and recurring threats from the region.