Members of a US Air Force carry team move the flag-draped transfer case holding the remains of an Air Force captain who was killed in a recent helicopter crash in western Iraq, in Dover, Delaware, March 18, 2018
Readiness among US military forces has hit a “crisis point,” warns a senior American lawmaker, calling on the Pentagon to address concerns over a spate of fatal aircraft crashes that killed over a dozen servicemen in the past few days.
“Last month Congress voted to provide our troops the funds they need to begin turning this crisis around,” Texas Representative Mac Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Saturday.
“Given the urgency and importance of this issue, there can be no higher priority for the Department of Defense than ensuring that our aircraft are safe and that pilots get the training they need. Nothing should divert us from that mission,” he added.
The Pentagon has firmly denied speculation that it is struggling with an aviation “crisis” in the wake of deadly mishaps that have led to the death of 16 service members since mid-March.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, however, warn that the incidents are part of a trend that has been building for years.
On Tuesday alone, the US military reported three separate aircraft crashes with the deadliest one involving a US Marine CH-53 helicopter that hit the ground near Naval Air Facility El Centro in California and killed four crew members.
The US military’s aerobatics team, Thunderbirds, lost one of its pilots after an F-16 jet crashed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on Wednesday.
Two more soldiers were killed on Friday night, when a US Army AH-64E Apache helicopter crashed at a training area in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Two other non-combat crashes took place last month, with one killing two Navy pilots in a crash off Key West and the other killing seven US service members in a helicopter crash in Iraq.
Meanwhile, two non-fatal crashes in Djibouti this week put the US Air Force in an embarrassing situation, after the government of the tiny African country ordered the grounding of US military flights amid a joint drill.
When asked on Thursday to comment on the incidents, US Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said the crashes did not indicate a “wave” or “crisis.”
However, he admitted they were “not normal” either.
The US military’s own data indicates that the number of American troops killed in aerial mishaps “skyrocketed” in 2017 as aircraft crashes increased by 38 percent.