The wreckage of a Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter was found Friday morning in the mountains of Ebino, Miyazaki Prefecture, and its three-man crew was later confirmed dead.
The MSDF is investigating the incident.
“We will identify the cause of the crash and do our best to prevent similar accidents in the future,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said.
The Maritime Staff Office set up a panel to probe the crash of the OH-6DA chopper, which vanished from the radar at 11:05 a.m. Thursday over Ebino.
The MSDF dispatched a rescue team involving some 500 personnel.
The helicopter was based at the MSDF’s Kanoya Air Base in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture. It was on a training flight to practice using the landscape as a visual marker. The weather was bad, forcing the chopper to change course.
The helicopter left the base at about 9:20 a.m. Thursday carrying two lieutenant commanders — one in his 30s and one in his 40s — and a petty officer second class in his 20s.
It is not known who was at the controls at the time of the accident and the aircraft was not equipped with an emergency locator beacon