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US service member killed in Ukrainian fighter jet crash, Air Force says

A Ukrainian Su-27. (Airwolfhound/Wikimedia/Released)
October 17, 2018

An American service member was killed when a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter jet crashed over the Khmelnytskyi region in Ukraine on Tuesday while partaking in a training exercise, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa announced in a statement Wednesday.

A Ukrainian service member was also killed in the crash.

The American Airman was a member of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, in Fresno, California.

The service member has not been identified, pending next of kin notification.

No other aircraft were involved, the Air Force said. There is an ongoing investigation by both the United States and Ukraine.

“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” said Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, Commander of the California Air National Guard and director of the military exercise the service members were partaking in, called Clear Sky, the Air Force said. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and fellow Airmen of both the U.S. Airman and Ukrainian aviator who were killed in the incident.”

Fox News had initially reported Tuesday that U.S. Air Force Command in Europe said the pilot was killed, but that had not been confirmed.

The U.S. Air Force initially put out a press release that said the pilot’s status was unknown, but that an American service member was involved in the incident.

“We have seen reports claiming a U.S. casualty and can confirm a U.S. service member was involved in this incident. It is currently under investigation and we will continue to provide more information as it becomes available,” the Air Force said in a release.

Details of the incident were not immediately available when news broke on Tuesday, but RT reported that the Su-27UB fighter jet was simulating combat flight as part of a NATO military exercise.

The Ukrainian General Staff had posted on Facebook, “We regret to inform that according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the U.S. National Guard,” RT reported.

Exercise Clear Sky 2018 includes personnel from nine nations – Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Air Force said.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of collaboration between the California ANG and Ukraine as part of U.S. European Command’s State Partnership Program. This program has been successfully building relationships with our partners and allies in over 75 nations around the globe,” according to U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa.