Five US troops killed in military aircraft crash in Mediterranean Sea

Five U.S. troops are dead after an American military aircraft crashed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Friday evening, U.S. European Command confirmed in a statement Sunday.

The crew was conducting a “routine air refueling mission” during a training sortie when their aircraft suffered a mishap, the command said. All aboard were killed.

It’s unclear whether the downed aircraft was an aerial refueling tanker or the receiving aircraft. The command first announced the accident on Saturday but has declined to say what type of aircraft was involved.

The mishap prompted an “immediate” rescue effort that included nearby U.S. military aircraft and ships, the command said.

European Command did not provide further details about where in the region the plane went down.

However, the U.S. issued a flight notice early Saturday noting a “search-and-rescue operation in progress” in the span of sea between Cyprus and Lebanon.

Planespotters on social media flagged multiple Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes patrolling the water south of Cyprus on Saturday, as well as an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III — often used for aeromedical evacuations — departing the area.

It’s unclear whether the aircraft was training as part of routine operations in Europe, or if it was over the Mediterranean Sea as part of a deterrent force that has arrived in the region in recent weeks.

The Pentagon has rushed thousands of American troops to the Middle East as war unfolds between U.S. ally Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Among those forces are two Navy carrier strike groups stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. surveillance aircraft gathering intelligence off of the Israeli coast and others spread around the region.

The military is investigating the cause of the mishap. It will not release the names of the deceased until 24 hours after their families have been notified, in accordance with Pentagon policy.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen,” European Command said.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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