Five US service members have been killed on a routine training mission after the military aircraft carrying them suffered a “mishap” and crashed into the sea.
The military personnel were taking part in a routine air refueling mission in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Friday as part of their training, the US defense department confirmed on Sunday.
The tragedy was reported by the United States European Command (USEUCO), which handles American military operations in Europe and parts of the Middle East.
It said in a statement: “All five of the service members on board the aircraft were killed.”
Search and rescue teams were deployed immediately after the incident, including nearby US military aircraft and ships.
An investigation into the crash is now under way.
“We can definitively say that the aircraft sortie was purely related to training and there are no indications of hostile activity,” the USEUCO statement said.
The identities of the deceased crew members will not be released for 24 hours while officials inform their next of kin, “out of respect for the affected families” and in accordance with the US Department of Defence policy.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen,” USEUCO added.
The US military has deployed two aircraft carriers – the Ford and the Eisenhower – together with their supporting ships and dozens of aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean since the deadly Hamas attack in Israel on 7 October, to act as a deterrent in the hope the conflict does not expand.
The tragedy was confirmed as people across the US prepared to mark Veteran’s Day – known as Armistice Day in the UK – on Saturday.
It is not yet clear what military service the aircraft belonged to.
In a statement, US President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill were mourning the loss of the five service members.