GSDF Prepares for Saturation Dive in Recovery of Lost Helicopter

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The submarine rescue vessel Chihaya operates in the sea off Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture on Saturday.

The Self-Defense Forces began preparations Saturday to resume a saturation dive to recover the remains of a Ground Self-Defense Force helicopter and the 10 personnel aboard that were lost off Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture.

Sonar readings and underwater cameras have detected what is believed to be the fuselage of the helicopter and several bodies on the seabed in 100-meter deep waters. The GSDF plans to send a saturation dive team to the area for visual confirmation before launching a recovery operation.

The GSDF UH-60JA multipurpose helicopter was carrying 10 personnel, including Lt. Gen. Yuichi Sakamoto, from the GSDF’s 8th Division when it disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff from Miyako Island on April 6.

According to a government source, the submarine rescue vessel Chihaya dropped a saturation dive chamber into the sea about seven kilometers north of Irabu Island shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Friday, but the operation was suspended due to equipment irregularities during the descent.

The equipment was being checked and the SDF prepared to drop the chamber again.

Underwater images of the object believed to be the fuselage sitting on the seafloor at a depth of about 100 meters show signs of severe damage.