Blazing Stallion: US Grounds CH-53E Helicopters in Okinawa After Emergency

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Takeshi Onaga on Thursday inspected the site of Wednesday's crash-landing of a CH-53 USA military helicopter in the village of Higashi in the prefecture.

On Wednesday, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter made an emergency landing after bursting in flames in midair over Okinawa.

In a meeting in Tokyo between Onodera and Maj.

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None of its seven crew members or local residents was hurt, but the latest accident, which follows the crash-landing of a USA military Osprey aircraft off the Okinawa main island in December, led the prefectural government to lodge a strong protest. Local media reported the aircraft had landed less than two miles from a school.

According to informed sources here, the U.S. Naval Safety Center has rated the accident as the most serious "Class A". "We will dispatch experts from the Japan Self-Defense Forces to share information with the United States", Onodera said.

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. One crashed off the eastern coast of Australia in August, leaving three U.S. Marines dead. The CH-53E is a large transport helicopter used by U.S. Marines, which can carry up to 55 personnel in addition to seven crew members.

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Seikyu Iju, mayor of the village, separately inspected the accident site on Thursday.

Guided by USA military personnel, the SDF members walked around the wrecked aircraft to check the situation themselves.

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.

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