Debris found of Japanese army helicopter with 10 crew

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TOKYO (Reuters)  Unused lifeboats, doors and other debris believed to be from a Japanese military helicopter found after Black Hawk believed to have crashed at sea with 10 crew members has been done, officials said.

Defense Minister Hamada, who appeared to be struggling to hold back tears, told reporters that the search was resumed on Friday but none of the missing crew members had been found.

We take the accident very seriously and will do everything possible to ensure the safe operation of SDF aircraft.” He said, “We will continue to collect information on the damage situation and do our best to rescue the 10 missing people.”

A UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter went missing Thursday afternoon during a reconnaissance mission in Japan’s southern islands, said Yasunori Morishita, chief of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. It is believed to have disappeared from radar just 10 minutes after taking off from the base on Miyako Island and crashing into the sea between Miyako Island and nearby Irabu Island to the northwest. This area is about 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

Japan is aggressively expanding its defense capabilities in the Nansei Islands in response to China’s increasingly aggressive military activities in the region, including near Taiwan.

According to the Ministry of Defense, in 1999 Japan acquired the Black Hawk, a twin-engine, four-wing utility helicopter developed by the U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Company and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for rapid response, surveillance and disaster relief operations.  

The helicopters are deployed to a key army base in Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu, Japan’s southern main island, Morishita said Thursday night. One of the ten crew members is Division Commander Yuichi Sakamoto, who was just promoted at the end of March.