U.S. Military Aircraft to Join Search for MSDF Members; 7 Still Missing Since Two MSDF Helicopters Crashed During Training Exercise

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The SH-60K helicopter of the Maritime Self-Defense Force that went missing after a crash. (From the website of the Maritime Self-Defense Force)

The U.S. military plans to send a patrol aircraft to join the search for seven missing Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force members who went missing after two MSDF helicopters crashed during a training exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said Tuesday.

The U.S. P-8 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, along with about 10 SDF warships and about five aircraft, will expand the search area and focus all their efforts on finding the seven people, Kihara said at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting.

“The U.S. military will provide us with support. A P-8 aircraft will join us to support on-site needs,” he said.

Eight MSDF members, four on each SH-60K patrol helicopter, were aboard the two aircraft that crashed late Saturday night about 280 kilometers east of Torishima Island, part of the Izu island chain in Tokyo.

One member was recovered but was pronounced dead.

With the accident now in its fourth day, the SDF will expand the search area.

The depth of the sea at the site is 5,500 meters deep.

Although the flight data recorders, parts of the blades of the two helicopters and several helmets have been recovered, the main parts of the aircraft are believed to have sunk to the bottom of the sea.

The Self-Defense Forces intends to speed up efforts to determine the exact location of the aircraft by dispatching the MSDF Shonan oceanographic observation ship.