Military officials have suspended air operations in Djibouti and canceled a major military training exercise in the region following two April 3 Marine Corps air mishaps.
“U.S. air operations in Djibouti are on hold and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has canceled the remainder of exercise Alligator Dagger in response to two separate aviation incidents in Djibouti on April 3, 2018,” according to a command release issued Thursday.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. local time Tuesday an AV-8B Harrier with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit crashed after the pilot ejected shortly after takeoff from Djibouti Ambouli International Airport.
The pilot was reported in stable condition on Wednesday and has since been released from the expeditionary medical facility at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
On the same day as the Harrier crash, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion, also with the 26th MEU, “suffered structural damage” while landing at an “approved exercise landing zone at Arta Beach, Djibouti” around 6:40 p.m. local time, a command release said.
The crew was not injured and the aircraft is still on-site at the landing zone pending an assessment, according to military officials.
“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,” a command release stated.
Alligator Dagger is a two-week training exercise to prep MEUs for operations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
Despite the cancellation of the exercise, the 26th MEU “will have numerous additional training exercises to maintain and sharpen readiness during their time in U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s area of operations,” Navy Cmdr. William Urban, a spokesman for Naval Forces Central Command, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
The 26th MEU, embarked on the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, recently traversed the Suez Canal after wrapping up a port visit in Limassol, Cyprus, near the tail end of March before arriving to Djibouti.
Both incidents are under a joint investigation, and a safety stand down has been implemented, according to officials.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.