Army Black Hawk Was Conducting SOF Demonstration For Japanese When Crash Occurred

August 14, 2015 2:15 PM - Updated: August 14, 2015 2:51 PM
A damaged U.S. Army helicopter rests on the desk of the USNS Red Cloud off Okinawa island, southern Japan on Aug. 12, 2015. Kyodo Photo
A damaged U.S. Army helicopter rests on the deck of the USNS Red Cloud off Okinawa island, southern Japan on Aug. 12, 2015. Kyodo Photo

The Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that crashed aboard the USNS Red Cloud (T-AKR-313) on Wednesday was demonstrating its special operations capabilities to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at the time of the incident, U.S. Forces Japan announced.

Red Cloud, a Large Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) in the Military Sealift Command fleet, was approximately eight miles east of Ukibaru Island for training with the Army and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

“U.S. special operations forces were conducting a maritime training exercise as part of a demonstration of the range of U.S. SOF capabilities to members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces,” according to the news release.

The helicopter made a hard landing on the deck of the LMSR, and images of the aftermath show the tail broke off as a result of the crash. Seventeen service members were on the helicopter at the time of the crash, and seven – five American and two Japanese – suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The incident is under investigation now.

Japanese government officials told the Japan Economic Newswire that the helicopter may have hit a crane or other object on the ship, causing the hard landing.

According to the Japan Economic Newswire article, the local government is upset that the United States is not obligated to share information about the crash under the status of forces agreement between the two countries.

“In a letter submitted to the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Okinawa government said the accident will cause ‘great concern to prefectural residents who have been forced to live alongside U.S. bases,’” according to the article. “Speaking to reporters, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga stressed the need to revise a Japan-U.S. status of forces agreement given that the Japanese government is not receiving sufficient information about the latest incident from the U.S. military.”

The crash occurred at the start of talks between Japan’s central government and the government of Okinawa — between Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and U.S. basing opponent Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga — over the replacement of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The Marines hope to relocate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the densely populated Ginowan district to the less crowded Henoko district. Many residents want to keep military activities farther from the civilian population.

“This accident is extremely regrettable,” Suga told reporters after a meeting with Onaga, according to a Reuters report.
“The government has strongly requested the U.S. to swiftly provide information, look into causes and prevent a recurrence.”

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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