An SH-60J patrol helicopter belonging to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) that crashed off Aomori Prefecture in August has been located on the seabed at a depth 2,600 meters.
The MSDF plans to salvage the SH-60J patrol helicopter as early as this week, Defense Ministry sources told reporters today, Mainichi reported.
The SH-60J is built by Mitsubishi in Japan under license from Sikorsky. Earlier reports quoted to MSDF officials had blamed human error for the accident.
A contracted salvage company used sonic equipment to search the seabed near where the helicopter had crashed, and discovered what appeared to be the airframe of a chopper in mid-September.
The company searched the area again on Oct. 16 using an autonomous underwater vehicle and identified the airframe as that of the crashed helicopter from camera footage. What appeared to be bodies were in the cockpit.
The company had originally planned to salvage the helicopter on Oct. 21 using a crane on a barge, but it suspended the operation due to a typhoon that struck Japan, and waited for the weather to recover.
The helicopter had taken off from the destroyer Setogiri on the night of Aug. 26. It plunged into the sea approximately 90 kilometers west-southwest of Cape Tappi after losing balance while a faulty indicator was being fixed during a landing-and-takeoff drill.
One of the crewmen was rescued, but three others including Yuki Sato, the 36-year-old captain, were left missing. Images of bodies believed to be those of the crewmen were confirmed on footage captured by the autonomous underwater vehicle of the salvage company.