In a devastating incident, the U.S. military conducted an extensive search and rescue operation in the Eastern Mediterranean on Saturday following the crash of a helicopter in the waters between Cyprus and Lebanon.
Aircraft tracking data revealed a significant search effort approximately 30 nautical miles southeast of the port of Larnaca, involving a U.S. Navy Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and surface vessels. A notice to mariners was issued for a search operation in the same area. Additionally, a C-17 Globemaster cargo plane was dispatched to Cyprus for potential medevac preparations.
In a subsequent statement, the Pentagon confirmed that the aircraft had gone down during a “routine air refueling mission as part of military training,” resulting in the tragic loss of all five personnel on board, according to U.S. European Command.
The identities of the crewmembers are being withheld in accordance with Department of Defense policy, and out of respect for the affected families. U.S. European Command expressed condolences, stating, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen.”
According to officials, the personnel were members of a special operations team, and the aircraft involved was an MH-60 helicopter, a standard for the U.S. Army. The aircrew members were attached to the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a unit often assigned to the insertion and extraction of commando units.
President Joe Biden expressed profound sorrow over the loss, stating, “[We] mourn the loss of 5 American service members who died when their aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea during a routine training mission.” He highlighted the daily bravery and selflessness of service members, emphasizing their commitment to keeping the American people safe.
The Eastern Mediterranean has seen a significant military presence from the U.S. Navy and its NATO partners. The tragic incident adds to the challenges faced by the military in the region, which has been actively addressing contingencies, including hostage situations involving U.S. citizens.
As investigations into the crash continue, the incident stands as a somber reminder of the sacrifices made by service members in the line of duty.