Japan’s Defence Ministry on Sunday said it was searching for three crew members of a Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) helicopter in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) after contact was lost with the chopper. One crew member had been rescued uninjured.
The ministry said the SH-60J anti-submarine warfare helicopter lost contact around 90km off the coast of Aomori Prefecture late on Saturday.
It said the flight data recorder had been located, but did not say what had actually happened to the helicopter, whether it crashed or ditched into the sea. The MSDF has launched an investigation into the incident.
Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said all helicopters of that type have been grounded.
“We have to ensure the safe flight operations (of Self-Defense Force aircraft),” Onodera said.
Earlier this month, four Japanese crew members were injured after their CH-101 chopper crashed on land during a training exercise at Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan.
After Saturday’s crash, Aomori Governor Shingo Mimura urged the MSDF to conduct a thorough probe into the accident and take steps to prevent a recurrence.
In a document submitted to a local unit of the MSDF, the governor said the crash “could increase public distrust in the safety management of the SDF.”
“It is extremely regrettable,” he added.