Five special operations troops killed in aircraft crash in eastern Mediterranean Sea

The aircraft suffered a mishap during a "routine air refueling mission" Friday evening.
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A 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopter. (photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy United States Marine Corps)

UPDATE (Nov. 13): The five soldiers killed in a Nov. 10 crash have been identified by the Army. Click here to read the updated story.

Five U.S. service members died on Friday after a mishap on a training flight caused their aircraft to crash.

The crash occurred on the evening of Friday, Nov. 10. The aircraft was flying over the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a training operation. U.S. European Command said that the aircraft “suffered a mishap” while performing a “routine air refueling mission,” causing the aircraft to go down. All five onboard were killed in the crash.  

The New York Times, citing three unnamed American officials, reports that the aircraft was carrying five U.S. Army special operations members. Per the Washington Post, the helicopter was an MH-60 with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The five onboard the helicopter were special operations members who provide transport for commando teams. Elements of the Joint Special Operations Command, including members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, trained in hostage rescue, were deployed to Cyprus for potential rescue missions in Israel and Gaza, the New York Times reports. They were deployed as part of a wider deployment of American forces to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Middle East in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel.

“Out of respect for the affected families, and in accordance with Department of Defense policy, the identities of the crewmembers are being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin notifications have been completed,” EUCOM said in its statement.

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The cause of the mishap and crash is currently under investigation. 

“We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea late Friday evening,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe. They represent the best of America. We will remember their service and their sacrifice.”

EUCOM said that search and rescue efforts began immediately after the aircraft went down, with American ships and aircraft patrolling the waters. Although the military is being quiet on the specifics of the crash, several flight tracker accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, noted the presence of multiple U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon planes flying low over the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Nov. 11, approximately 30 nautical miles southeast of the island of Cyprus.

U.S. European Command originally announced the mishap on Saturday, Nov. 11, saying only that an unspecified aircraft “suffered a mishap and went down” during a training flight. 

The U.S. currently has the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, but EUCOM has not said if the aircraft was a part of that group.

Friday’s incident is one of several fatal aerial mishaps the U.S. military has suffered this year. In August, a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey crashed in Australia, killing three Marines and injuring 20 others. 

This is a developing story. 

Update: 11/12/2023: This story has been updated with comments by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Update: 11/12/2023: This story has been updated with details reported by the New York Times.

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