Command officials at an Air Force combat wing in the Pacific have suspended all flight operations in the wake of an F-15C crash off the coast of Okinawa, according to a unit statement issued Monday.
Members of the 14th Air Wing based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa announced the stand down of its F-15 training operations to allow wing and squadron commanders “reviews operational, maintenance and safety procedures” tied to its air operations in the region, says the statement.
Aside from that overall review, Air Force commanders at the base will convene a review board to “conduct a thorough investigation, examining the facts and circumstances that led up to the accident to determine the cause,” of the crash, Air Force officials added.
An F-15C Eagle fighter jet attached to the 18th Air Wing’s 44th Fighter Squadron crashed off the southern coast of Okinawa, during a routine training operation early Monday morning. The pilot, whose identity has yet to be released, successfully ejected from the jet and was rescued by members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ Naha Rescue Squadron, says the Air Force statement.
“The pilot has been transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Foster, where he is in serious condition,” service officials said.
While F-15 training operations have been suspended, airmen with the 18th Air Wing will continue flight operations for its fleet of KC-135 aerial refuelers, C-130 cargo aircraft and the air service’s HH-60 Pave Hawk Combat Search and Rescue helicopters, as well as a handful of F-22 Raptor fighter jets visiting the unit, air wing spokeswoman Capt. Katy Blessing said in an email to the Washington Times Monday.
Monday’s crash is the 12th such incident to involve American military aircraft this year.
In May, nine U.S. service members killed in a fiery plane crash near Savannah, Georgia. Air National Guard Majors José Román Rosado, Carlos Pérez Serra and 1st Lt. David Albandoz, the pilot, navigator and co-pilot of the Lockheed Martin-built WC-130 Hercules cargo aircraft that careened into Georgia Highway 21 near Savannah, were killed along with six other senior enlisted officers in the incident.
Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, Master Sgts. Jean Audriffred, Mario Braña, Víctor Colón, Eric Circuns and Senior Airman Roberto Espada all died instantly upon impact.
Federal lawmakers in March pumped a total $130 million into the services’ operations, maintenance and training accounts — an investment that comes after a slew of training accidents that left numbers of U.S. service members dead — into the Omnibus spending bill.
But the lack of those federal dollars over the last several years, as a result of massive, across-the-board military spending cuts under the Obama-era Budget Control Act, has contributed to the recent spate of deadly incidents, says the Pentagon.