USA military to ground CH-53 choppers after crash-landing in Japan's Okinawa

A CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter

Okinawa Crash Grim Reminder of US Military Presence for Frustrated Locals

Japan urged the USA military Friday to suspend flights of its CH-53 helicopters until safety is guaranteed, after one of them burst into flames in Okinawa.

Onaga is set to urge the Japanese government and the USA military to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and halt the operations of CH-53 helicopters.

The minister said that the terms of the flight suspension were unclear.

Onodera said the U.S. had agreed to his request.

But Onodera emphasized that he had agreed with the deputy commander of U.S. Forces Japan during their talks in Tokyo on Thursday that no timeline was set for the operational pause.

The accident occurred Wednesday afternoon, with a CH-53E catching fire in midair during a training flight and bursting into flames as it made an emergency landing in a field near the U.S. Northern Training Area on the main island of Okinawa. Local media reported the aircraft had landed less than two miles from a school. There were no casualties.

Many Okinawans have always been frustrated with noise, crimes and accidents connected to US bases, with the prefecture hosting the bulk of USA military facilities in Japan. The large concentration of USA troops on the island of Okinawa has been repeatedly criticized by Okinawa's residents due to the high number of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel, as well as United States aircraft crashes around its airbases.

On Friday morning, four Japanese Self-Defense Force members with expertise on helicopters visited the accident site in the village of Higashi to gather information on the incident.

"Helicopter crashes should never happen", he said.

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