Japan SDF helicopter disappears near Miyakojima Island

TOKYO, April 6 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) helicopter with 10 people on board disappeared from the radar on Thursday in waters off the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa, local media reported.

The UH-60 multipurpose chopper disappeared from radar at around 4:40 p.m. local time about 18 km northwest of an airport in Okinawa Prefecture's Miyakojima Island, according to public broadcaster NHK citing the defense ministry and other sources.

The helicopter took off from Miyakojima before 4 p.m. and was scheduled to return to the island after 5 p.m., according to the NHK.

Two pilots, two mechanics and six crew were on board and all were Self-Defense Force members, the GSDF said.

The coast guard dispatched four patrol ships to nearby waters to search for the helicopter, which belongs to a unit in the Kumamoto Prefecture and was engaging in surveillance activities, the report said.

Weather conditions were described as moderate when the ships arrived around 6:10 p.m., it added.