Five U.S. service members lost their lives during a military aircraft crash on Friday night while engaged in a training operation in the eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. European Command confirmed this unfortunate event on Sunday, revealing that the crash happened during a routine air refueling mission as part of military training.
The victims’ names will not be disclosed until 24 hours pass to allow for proper next of kin notifications, according to the U.S. European Command. CBS News reports that the deceased service members were special operations forces deployed to Cyprus in preparation for a potential evacuation of Lebanon or Israel.
The U.S. European Command oversees military operations in Europe, parts of Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic, and the Atlantic Ocean. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed condolences, stating, “We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea late Friday evening.” The Pentagon is actively investigating the crash.
The incident, deemed unrelated to hostile activity, was solely connected to training. Despite immediate search and rescue efforts, they were unfortunately unsuccessful, as confirmed by USEUCOM. Austin emphasized that this tragedy underscores the daily sacrifices made by the men and women defending the nation.
This crash comes amid heightened U.S. military presence in the Middle East in response to recent events. The USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group were deployed to the eastern Mediterranean after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. Simultaneously, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group headed to the Persian Gulf due to increased attacks on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed Shia militia groups in recent weeks.