The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) has cancelled the remainder of exercise Alligator Dagger in response to two separate aviation incidents in Djibouti on April 3, 2018.
First, an AV-8B Harrier II ground-attack aircraft from the U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) crashed at Djibouti Ambouli International Airport at approximately 4:10 p.m. local time. The pilot ejected and was evaluated and released by the expeditionary medical facility at Camp Lemonnier.
In a separate incident, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter from the 26th MEU suffered structural damage during a landing at an approved exercise landing zone at Arta Beach, Djibouti, at approximately 6:40 p.m. local time. The aircrew were not injured during the landing and the helicopter has remained at the landing site pending additional assessment.
Alligator Dagger is a routine, scheduled training event involving U.S. personnel and operations in the vicinity of Djibouti and Arta Beach Range. Both incidents are currently under a joint investigation, and we will provide more information when able. A safety stand-down has been initiated for all exercise participants.
The U.S. military has also put on hold the air operations in Djibouti in response to the incidents. 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.
In an unrelated incident on the same day, a USMC CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter crashed in the vicinity of Naval Air Facility El Centro, California during a routine training mission along the U.S.-Mexico border, killing four crew members.