A U.S. Air Force pilot was killed when an F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed in a non-combat-related incident Sunday in the Middle East, according to the military.
Currently, the 77th Fighter Squadron based at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter is conducting combat operations in Syria and Iraq against the group calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Neither U.S. Central Command in Tampa or officials at Shaw would identify the pilot or confirm if he was with the 77th.
The aircraft was returning to its base in the Middle East about 11 p.m., shortly after take-off, according to a release from Central Command. The crash did not occur in Iraq or Syria, it said.
The aircraft was taking off to conduct a combat run in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, as the operation against ISIS is called.
The location of the crash was not disclosed because of host nation sensitivities, an Air Force official told The State on background. But a report from CNN, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said the crash happened in Jordan. That report also said the jet was returning to the base because it was suffering from maintenance problems.
The 77th Fighter Squadron from Shaw left for an undisclosed location in the Middle East in October to conduct combat missions against ISIS. The squadron is part of the 20th Fighter Wing, which is based at Shaw. With three squadrons, the wing is the largest concentration of F-16s in the Air Force.
Shaw Air Force Base has played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Syria. F-16 squadrons from the base have been deployed numerous times to the Middle East and southwest Asia to bomb targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Air-to-ground attacks are the F-16’s specialty and the type of missions being conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also, Shaw is home to both U.S. Army Central and U.S. Air Forces Central. The two commands continue to plan, equip and supply the ground and air wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. They are the Army and Air Force component of U.S. Central Command, headquartered in Tampa, Fla.
The most recent air attacks, intended to degrade fighters of the Islamic State group, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq, began on Aug. 7.
It is the U.S. military's policy to defer identification of a casualty until 24 hours after next-of-kin notification.