The JGSDF operated a relatively small force of 40 UH-60JA helicopters. The crash of a UH-60JA off Miyakojima on 6 April is the first recorded by the army. (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force)
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) helicopter has crashed north of Miyako Island while conducting a patrol.
In a press conference in Tokyo on 6 April, General Yasunori Morishita, chief of staff of the JGSDF, said that the Sikorsky (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) UH-60JA Black Hawk vanished from radar screens on Thursday afternoon. Gen Morishita said that 10 people were aboard the helicopter when it crashed.
This includes two pilots, two mechanics, and six passengers from the JGSDF's 8th Rapid Deployment Division. One of the passengers was General Yuichi Sakamoto, the divisional commander, Gen Morishita added.
The 8th Division is based in Kumamoto prefecture on mainland Japan. Gen Sakamoto, 55, had taken charge of the division on 31 March, based on information published by the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD).
According to Gen Morishita, the UH-60JA disappeared from radar coverage at 1556 h local time, shortly after departing from Miyako Airport. The helicopter was supposed to return at 1705 h local time.
The aircraft's last known position was 18 km northwest of Miyako Airport. Japan Coast Guard and naval vessels were deployed to search the area. Aircraft debris was found in the area, according to Gen Morishita.
He added that the helicopter was conducting a “reconnaissance” patrol at the time. Gen Morishita said that the operations of the UH-60JA helicopter near Miyako Island is being part of routine military preparedness. He described the patrol activity as “normal”.
The Japan MoD had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.