An unused lifeboat, a door, and other fragments believed to be from a Japanese army helicopter were found after a UH-60JA Black Hawk, carrying 10 crew members, was presumed to have crashed at sea. Officials have reported that none of the missing crew members have been found yet as the search continued on Friday.
The UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter disappeared from radar only 10 minutes after departing from a base on Miyako Island and is believed to have crashed into the water between Miyako and nearby Irabu Island to the northwest. The area where the helicopter crashed is about 1,800 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.
Japan has been aggressively building up its defense capability in its southwestern islands in response to China’s increasingly assertive military activity in the region, including near Taiwan. The Black Hawk, a twin-engine, four-bladed utility helicopter developed by U.S. manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft and produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, has been used by Japan since 1999 for rapid response, surveillance, and disaster relief missions.
The helicopter was stationed at a key army base in Kumamoto prefecture on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu, Morishita said Thursday night. One of its 10 crew members is the division commander, Yuichi Sakamoto, who was just promoted to the post at the end of March. The army said the helicopter had a routine safety inspection in late March. No abnormality was found during its subsequent test flight or on its trip from its home base of Kumamoto to the Miyako island.
The Defense Minister, Yasukazu Hamada, took the accident seriously and said that all precautions would be taken for the safe operations of Self Defense Force aircraft. Coast guard patrol ships found an unused lifeboat whose serial number matched that of the missing helicopter and a door believed to belong to the same aircraft near the presumed crash site.
The Japanese Defense Ministry has released a defense white paper that identifies China as Japan’s main security concern. In the wake of China’s assertiveness, Japan has been strengthening its military presence in the region, including increasing defense spending and establishing new bases. The helicopter accident highlights the risks associated with the increasingly tense security environment in the region.
The incident is a reminder of the dangers faced by military personnel when operating in difficult environments, and the importance of taking every precaution to ensure their safety. The search for the missing crew members is ongoing, and the Japanese authorities have vowed to do everything possible to locate them.
The incident also underscores the need for greater cooperation and coordination between regional powers to manage tensions and prevent incidents from escalating into larger conflicts. As tensions continue to rise in the region, it is imperative that all parties work together to ensure the safety and security of all those involved.