Two Japanese naval helicopters with eight crew members on board are suspected to have crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

Two Japanese naval helicopters carrying eight crew members crashed in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during a night training exercise. The Maritime Self Defense Force’s two SH-60K helicopters were each carrying four crew members when they lost contact near Torishima Island in the Pacific Ocean. One crew member was recovered from the water, but the remaining seven are still missing. The cause of the crash is unknown and rescue operations are underway.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force deployed eight warships and five aircraft to search for the missing crew members. During the search, fragments were found that probably came from one of the helicopters. The helicopters were conducting night anti-submarine training when they lost contact, with one sending a distress signal at 10:38 p.m. and the other losing contact 25 minutes later. The planes belonged to air bases in Nagasaki and Tokushima prefectures and are usually deployed on destroyers for anti-submarine missions.

Saturday’s training exercise involved only the Japanese navy and was not part of a multinational exercise, with no foreign aircraft or warships spotted in the area. Japan has accelerated its military build-up and deterrence in the southwestern Japanese islands in response to China’s increasingly assertive military activities. In recent years, Japan has conducted naval exercises and joint exercises with allies such as the United States to counter potential threats.

The apparent crash comes a year after a Ground Self-Defense Force UH-60 Blackhawk crashed off Japan’s southwestern island of Miyako, killing all 10 crew members. In January 2022, an Air Self-Defense F-15 fighter jet crashed off the north-central coast of Japan, also killing two crew members. The crash highlights the risks and dangers military personnel face during training exercises and underlines the importance of safety protocols and emergency measures.

The search and rescue operation for the missing crew members continues, with Japanese defense officials focusing on locating and recovering the remaining seven individuals. The recovery of fragments believed to have come from one of the helicopters provides some clues to the possible location of the crash site. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of its personnel and will continue to work tirelessly to find the missing crew members.

As more information becomes available about the cause of the crash and the status of the missing crew members, Japanese government and defense officials will provide updates to the public. The incident is a reminder of the risks associated with military training exercises and the importance of preparedness and coordination when responding to emergencies. The thoughts and prayers of the Japanese people are with the missing crew members and their families as the search and rescue operation continues.

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