Two separate aviation incidents involving United States Marine Corps (USMC) aircraft in Djibouti have forced the cancellation of Exercise Alligator Dagger, a routine training operation near the Arta Beach Range.
In one incident, a USMC AV-8B Harrier from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) suffered a malfunction and crashed while flying over the Djibouti Ambouli International Airport. The pilot safely ejected and was taken to a U.S. medical facility at Camp Lemonnier.
The other incident involved a USMC CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter from the 26th MEU. While the Super Stallion was landing during an exercise at Arta Beach, the helicopter suffered “structural damage” and could not take off.
Both incidents occurred on April 3, 2018. The USMC and the U.S. Navy are investigating the incidents, and have declared a “safety stand-down” for all forces that were participating in the exercise.
While Exercise Alligator Dagger has been canceled for the seeable future, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command officials stated that “Routine operations for other units assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command are unaffected by this cancellation, and U.S. Naval personnel continue to conduct maritime security operations throughout the region.”
These incidents come during the same week as two other U.S. military aviation accidents left five servicemembers dead. Four U.S. Marines were killed in California in a helicopter crash, and an Air Force Thunderbirds pilot was killed in a separate crash at Nellis Air Force Base.