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Marine F/A-18 Breaks Up Midair, Explodes In Ball Of Fire

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty

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A Marine Corps jet broke apart and burst into flames during a dive in a training exercise Thursday night, killing the pilot.

The F/A-18 Hornet was flying a training mission around near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., base when it broke apart midair and crashed around 10:30 p.m., according to a Marine Corps news release.

The jet was in a dive and about to drop a live bomb on a target when it broke apart and burst into a ball of fire, an eyewitness told the Washington Post.

The flight was part of a 36-hour training exercise that involved live artillery where ground troops practice defending unknown territory. The Marine who witnessed the crash said live artillery had been fired prior to the crash, but, according to training protocols, had stopped before the aircraft made its dive.(RELATED: Navy Blue Angel Jet Crashes In Tennessee)

The Marine Corps is investigating the cause of the crash and have not released the pilot’s name, according to the news release.

The head of Marine Aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said Friday that he is “not happy and not satisfied” with the amount of flight hours F/A-18 pilots receive, according to the Marine Corps Times.

F/A-18 pilots don’t get enough time to train because of recent budget cuts, a lack of spare parts, and the fact that pilots of the new F-35 stealth fighter received priority for training time in 2015, according to Davis.

“I do not think we’re unsafe, but we’re not as proficient as we should be,” Davis said.

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