SYDNEY, July 29 (Reuters) – Joint military exercises between Australia and the United States were paused on Saturday after an Australian Defence Force (ADF) helicopter involved in the war games crashed into the ocean off the coast of Queensland state.
At least four people were fear dead after the crash, which occurred when the helicopter ditched into waters close to Hamilton Island, about 890km (550 miles) north of state capital Brisbane, late Friday.
A mission to find the missing MRH-90 helicopter and its crew of four was underway in the area, Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Saturday morning.
Director of the Talisman Sabre military exercises, Brigadier Damian Hill, said they had been put on hold following the crash.
“I’ve initiated a Pause-Ex across Australia for all participants of Talisman Sabre to enable them all, regardless of their nation, to reach out and let their families know what is going on,” Hill said, according to an official transcript.
Talisman Sabre comprises two weeks of war games involving more than 30,000 troops and participants from 11 other countries, in a show of force and unity amid China’s military build-up in the region.
The exercises are taking place in various locations across Australia and include mock land and air combat, as well as amphibious landings.
Reporting by Praveen Menon and Sam McKeith; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lincoln Feast
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