An F-16 pilot was killed late Sunday when the Air Force jet crashed shortly after takeoff from a Middle East airbase on an airstrike mission against ISIS, Pentagon officials said Monday.
The death of the pilot, whose name was withheld until his family could be notified, was the first involving a fixed-wing aircraft since the air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began on Aug. 8, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
The crash occurred at about 11 p.m. EST Sunday as the pilot attempted to return to the airbase, which the Pentagon declined to identify because of the "political sensitivities" of the host nation.
However, numerous published reports and official statements have made it well known that the U.S. is using airbases at al-Udeid in Qatar, which also serves as a headquarters for U.S. Central Command in the region, and at al-Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Warren said that the aircraft experienced "maintenance problems" shortly after takeoff on a combat mission against ISIS and was attempting to return to base when it crashed. The pilot did not eject and it was not immediately known if the pilot attempted to eject, Warren said.
First responders were still at the scene and the cause of the incident was under investigation, Warren said.
The death of the pilot was not the first related to Operation Inherent Resolve. In October, a Marine corporal was killed in an accident involving at an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft operating off a ship involved in Operation Inherent Resolve.
A Marine lance corporal was also killed in a non-combat incident in Baghdad in late October.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org