An Air Self-Defense Force search-and-rescue helicopter is believed to have crashed off Hamamatsu, central Japan, on Tuesday evening, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
The UH-60J chopper, carrying four crew, disappeared from radar at around 6 p.m. about 30 kilometers south of the ASDF's Hamamatsu base. Onodera said apparent helicopter debris had been seen floating in the ocean where it is believed to have gone down.
"We've seen a door bearing the Air Self-Defense Force letters. We cannot help but believe that it crashed," Onodera told reporters.
The chopper left the Hamamatsu base at 5:50 p.m. to conduct a nighttime search-and-rescue drill. It disappeared from radar about 10 minutes later. The crew members included Maj. Akihiro Hanafusa, the 42-year-old captain.
Other ASDF helicopters, as well as Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels have been dispatched to the site to look for the missing crew members.