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US Army helicopters possibly flying under 200 m over Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku Station

TOKYO -- The Mainichi Shimbun released new footage on June 17 offering yet more evidence that U.S. military helicopters are repeatedly flying low over central Tokyo at altitudes that are illegal for Japanese choppers.

    Two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters fly at low altitudes over Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district. The first chopper appears to be flying lower than the top of the 203-meter Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, in this still captured from video taken from about 200 meters up in a Tokyo building on July 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Oba)

    Video of two U.S. Army Black Hawks flying in formation over Shinjuku Station in downtown Tokyo was taken on July 9, 2020. There is a possibility that the aircraft were flying at between 100 and 199 meters --far below Japan's minimum safety altitude of 300 m above the tallest structure within a 600-m radius in densely populated areas.

    The two choppers were seen flying about 150 meters apart near Shinjuku Station from the direction of Tokyo and Ueno stations after 1 p.m. When the two Black Hawks passed the 203-m Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, the helicopter taking the lead appeared to be flying at an altitude in the 100s, lower than the top edge of the tower.

    Two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters fly at low altitudes near skyscrapers in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. Behind the front helicopter is the KDDI Building (164 m), and in the background of the second helicopter is the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building (210 m). There is a possibility that the chopper in front was flying under 200 meters, according to this still captured from video taken from about 200 meters up in a Tokyo building approximately 200 meters high on July 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Oba)

    The two helicopters continued to fly over the station without gaining altitude, and then between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Main Building No. 1 (243 m) and the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building (roughly 270 m). The distance between the two buildings is around 1,100 m. Because the minimum safety altitude applies within a 600-m radius of the aircraft, the Black Hawks' flight would be illegal for a Japanese helicopter.

    The two helicopters then flew off in the direction of Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. According to one military magazine, Black Hawks are at least 15 m long and weigh more than 5 metric tons. In Japan, their primary mission is to transport dignitaries, but in other countries, they take part in combat.

    Two U.S. Army Black Hawks fly past the 243-meter Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Main Building No. 1. Their flight path appears to be lower than the government building's 202-meter observatory in this still captured from video taken from about 200 meters up in a Tokyo building approximately 200 meters high on July 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Oba).

    Since Feb. 24 of this year, the Mainichi Shimbun has reported on and released video footage of U.S. military helicopters repeatedly flying low above downtown Tokyo. Since late February, the Japanese government has sought the confirmation from the U.S. government, but the latter has yet to provide a final answer.

    According to the Japanese government, Washington has said that, while it has not confirmed any flights in violation of U.S. military rules that are consistent with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Japanese law, it is difficult to ascertain the details because much time has passed since the flights being reported. As the U.S. has yet to offer a conclusive answer on the issue, the Mainichi will continue to release footage of low-altitude flights by U.S. military aircraft.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Oba, Tokyo City News Department, and Takahiro Kato, Video Group)

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