U.S. Navy helicopters violated minimum altitude during training outside military-use area

U.S. Navy helicopters violated minimum altitude during training outside military-use area

MH-60 special operations helicopters belonging to the U.S. Navy drop down to almost touch the surface of the water in Nago Bay on March 22 at 5:44 p.m. in Nago City

March 25, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Shohei Tsukazaki and Hideki Matsudo


On March 22, two helicopters, which were recognized as U.S. military aircraft, were used for suspension training and the like in Nago Bay, Nago City, and on March 24, the U.S. Navy was recognized as the branch conducting the training. In an interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo, a spokeperson for the U.S. Navy answered that U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopters belonging to the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 were the ones used for the training. No answer was given as to the reason that training was conducted outside of areas for U.S. military use without notice.

On March 23, a spokeperson for the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) told a reporter for the Ryukyu Shimpo that the ODB is in the process of inquiring with the U.S. Navy about the facts surrounding the training, and that, presuming the helicopters were indeed U.S. military aircraft, the U.S. military has continually been asked for proper consideration to public safety in Japan, for adherence to the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee Agreement, and for the effects of U.S. military activity in the area to be minimized.

The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee agreed that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the minimum safe altitude stipulated in Japan’s aviation law, and flight behavior regulations in Japan’s aviation law all apply to the flight of U.S. military aircraft. Aviation law establishes the minimum altitude in vacant areas as 150 meters above sea level, and the like. The aircraft used to conduct training a Nago Bay came close enough to almost touch the surface of the water, and hovered approximately 10 meters from the surface of the water.

A spokeperson for the U.S. Navy said that they are making efforts to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific region while fulfilling the duties outlined in their agreements with Japan, and that it is necessary to conduct essential training in order to maintain high responsiveness.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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