By Melanie Sun
Five U.S. servicemen were killed when a military aircraft crashed over the eastern Mediterranean Sea during a training mission, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said Sunday.
The aircraft crashed on Friday evening. EUCOM said all five crew members were killed when it went down “during a routine air refueling mission as part of military training.”
The military first announced the crash on Saturday, saying on Sunday that “search and rescue efforts began immediately, including nearby U.S. military aircraft and ships.”
EUCOM said that out of respect for the families of the service members and in line with Department of Defense policy, the identities of the crew members are being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin are notified.
The incident is not believed to have been due to any hostile activity.
“We can definitively say that the aircraft sortie was purely related to training and there are no indications of hostile activity,” the command added.
An investigation is underway for the cause of the accident, it said.
The Air Force has sent additional squadrons to the region. Currently, the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, and the U.S. 6th Fleet command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are in the eastern Mediterranean.
It has not been announced which unit the affected personnel belong to.
The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group was deployed to the region on Oct. 8 to deter the Hezbollah terror group, Iran, and other actors from joining the hostilities triggered between the Hamas terrorist group and Israel following Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7, the Pentagon said at the time.
The Norfolk, Virginia-based carrier strike group was originally expected to be replaced in the Mediterranean by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower at the end of October. However, its deployment was extended in response to Hamas’s attack on Israel.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has approximately 5,000 sailors and eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft.
The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group also includes one of the world’s largest aircraft carriers, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), as well as 4 Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
Joint Military Exercises
The Ford Carrier Strike Group and the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group recently conducted joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea on Nov. 1–3.
“Sailors and naval aviators from the USS Gerald R. Ford – CVN 78 Carrier Strike Group (CSG 12) and those of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group (CSG 2) trained on high-value unit defense, ballistic missile defense, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations, and maritime security operations,” the U.S. Sixth Fleet said in a Facebook post.
They were joined by the USS Mount Whitney and the Italian navy’s frigates ITS Virginio Fasan (F 591) and ITS Carlo Margottini (F 592).
“Operating dual carrier strike groups alongside Allies and Partners in a dynamic environment demonstrates our capability and capacity to respond with agility decisively to any contingency,” Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, said. “Our presence sends a clear signal about our commitment to deter aggression and promote stability throughout the region.”