Published March 22, 2011
TRIPOLI, Libya -- A U.S. warplane on patrol in Libya crash-landed in Libya Tuesday after a mechanical failure, but the U.S. military says the crew of the F-15E Eagle are safe.
A U.S. official says both the crew of an F-15 fighter jet that crashed in Libya are safe and back in American hands.
The official, speaking Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said a Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the pilot. He says the second crew member, a weapon's officer, was recovered by Libyan rebel forces and is now in U.S hands. The jet crashed just east of Benghazi in rebel held territory around midnight local time.
An hour later, seven aircraft were deployed for the rescue mission from the USS Kearsarge 100 miles away in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Marine sources. Two AV-B8 Harriers in the deployment dropped bombs between the downed pilot and enemies he thought were approaching them. The pilot was in communication with the rescue team and was able to coordinate the ordinance.
Officials said they were unaware if anyone was hurt in the two bombings.
Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. forces enforcing the no-fly zone, was on a strike mission against a Libya missile site.
He also did not deny reports out of London that civilians were shot and killed by a Marine Osprey during the rescue mission of the pilots. Adm. Locklear says the entire incident is under investigation and is being executed "as I would expect it to be."
A U.S. defense official tells Fox News that shots were fired during the rescue mission and that it is under investigation.
Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the Africa Command, says both sustained minor injuries and were separated because they used parachutes to eject from the F-15E Strike Eagle jet at high altitudes, ending up in different areas.
A correspondent for The London Daily Telegraph on the ground in Libya said via Twitter that the plane plowed into a field near opposition stronghold Benghazi in the east of the country late Monday. The crew was in rebel hands, the newspaper reported.
U.S. planes, including F-16s, were involved in a third night of air attacks on Libya on Monday.
Fox News' Justin Fishel, Newscore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.