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Two pilots rescued after Japanese F-2 fighter crashes into Sea of Japan

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi F-2 fighter is parked at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018.

COLLETTE BROOKS/U.S. AIR FORCE

By AYA ICHIHASHI AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 19, 2019

TOKYO — A pair of Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilots were rescued Wednesday morning after their Mitsubishi F-2B fighter crashed into the Sea of Japan near Yamaguchi prefecture.

Both crew members were conscious, the JASDF said in a statement. No other information on their condition was provided. No other damage or injuries resulted from the crash.

The JASDF halted all flights temporarily soon after the incident; however, F-2s will remain grounded until they’re deemed safe to fly again, a JASDF spokeswoman said.

A U-125A helicopter discovered the pilots in the water at 10:12 a.m., almost two hours after the F-2B, a variant of the U.S. F-16 fighter, had left Tsuiki Air Base on a routine exercise, according to JASDF. The jet belonged to the 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Air Wing.

The crew issued an SOS call at 9:18 a.m., 30 minutes into the flight. Two minutes later, the jet disappeared from controllers’ radar screens at a point 80 miles northeast of the base, according to JASDF.

Search crews were dispatched at 9:30 a.m.; the helicopter at 10:06 a.m. came across two floating personal life-rafts of the type included in crew survival gear

“I don’t know the details of the two pilots, but they were found alive,” Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya said during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting, according to public broadcaster NHK.

“We are still investigating any damages and affects because of this accident, but I am very sorry for causing locals the troubles and worries,” NHK reported Iwaya saying. “We will find the cause of the accident and do our best not to have this again.”

On Feb. 5, 2018, an AH-6D Apache attack helicopter of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force crashed into a Nagasaki home, killing two crew members on board and injuring an 11-year-old girl in the home. The Defense Ministry later attributed the accident to a problem with a bolt in the main rotor head.

ichihashi.aya@stripes.com

kusumoto.hana@stripes.com
Twitter: @HanaKusumoto

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