One dead and seven missing after 2 Japanese military helicopters crash during drill

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File photo.

21st April 2024 – (Tokyo) One crew member has died and seven others remain unaccounted for following a catastrophic incident involving two Japanese military helicopters. The accident occurred late on Saturday during a maritime exercise aimed at submarine detection, according to Defence Minister Minoru Kihara.

Speaking to the press, Kihara detailed that parts of the aircraft were discovered in the sea, leading to a strong belief that a collision between the two helicopters had taken place. This tragic event unfolded off the Izu Islands, a remote area in the Pacific Ocean, during routine night-time operations.

The incident first came to light when communication with one of the helicopters was abruptly lost at 10.38pm local time near Torishima Island. A distress signal was sent out by this helicopter just a minute later. Subsequently, at approximately 11.04pm, it became apparent that contact with the second helicopter had also ceased in the vicinity of the same area.

The helicopters, identified as Mitsubishi SH-60K models, are primarily deployed from naval destroyers and are integral to the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF). Given that there were no other military or civilian vessels nearby, officials have ruled out foreign involvement in the mishap.

The Defence Ministry has since recovered flight recorders from the helicopters and is currently analysing the data to ascertain the cause of the crash, including the possibility that the two aircraft collided.

This incident adds to a series of unfortunate events involving Japanese military aircraft. In April last year, a helicopter crash off Miyako Island resulted in the deaths of all 10 personnel on board. Additionally, in January 2022, a fighter jet accident claimed the lives of two pilots in the central Ishikawa region, and a 2019 incident saw an F-35A stealth jet plunge into the sea after takeoff from northeastern Japan, leading to the pilot’s death due to spatial disorientation.