This post has been updated to correct the date USS Iwo Jima entered U.S. 5th Fleet. It was March 27, not March 29.
A Marine pilot is in stable condition after an AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during takeoff in Djibouti during an exercise on Tuesday, a U.S. Navy official told USNI News.
The Harrier was taking off from Djibouti Ambouli International Airport around 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST) when the nose of the aircraft rose too quickly, causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft and forcing the pilot to eject, according to eyewitness accounts of the crash a source told USNI News. Witnesses say the pilot was able to walk to the ambulance after the ejection.
“Doctors said the pilot was in stable condition while being evaluated at Camp Lemonnier’s expeditionary medical facility,” according to a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.
“There are no reports of injuries to personnel on the ground nor damage to infrastructure at the airport. The airport is open.”
The incident is currently under investigation.
The Harrier was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 in the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and embarked on USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7). The aircraft was operating as part of the two-week Alligator Dagger exercise that kicked off today, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban told USNI News.
As a result of the crash, the 26th MEU is taking a 24-hour operational pause for air operations but the remainder of the Alligator Dagger exercise will continue as scheduled, a U.S. defense official told USNI News.
In addition to Iwo Jima, the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Laboon (DDG-58) and the 26th MEU are participating in Alligator Dagger.
The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group deployed from Mayport, Fla., in early February and entered U.S. 5th Fleet on March 27.
Staff writer Megan Eckstein contributed to this report.
The following is the complete April 3, 2018 statement on the crash.
An AV-8B Harrier pilot is receiving medical care after ejecting during takeoff from Djibouti Ambouli International Airport, Djibouti, April 3, 2018, just after 4:00 p.m. local time.
Assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 and embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, the aircraft crashed after the pilot ejected.
Doctors said the pilot was in stable condition while being evaluated at Camp Lemonnier’s expeditionary medical facility.
There are no reports of injuries to personnel on the ground nor damage to infrastructure at the airport. The airport is open.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.