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US Navy pauses air operations in Djibouti and cancels exercises after pair of aviation incidents

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has halted air operations in Djibouti and canceled the remainder of a joint exercise following two military aircraft crashes this week, a spokesperson told The Defense Post.

“U.S. air operations in Djibouti are on hold and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has cancelled the remainder of exercise Alligator Dagger in response to two separate aviation incidents in Djibouti on April 3, 2018,” Commander Bill Urban, spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said in an emailed statement.

An AV-8B Harrier vertical takeoff and landing plane from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit crashed at Djibouti Ambouli International Airport shortly after takeoff on Tuesday afternoon. The pilot was ejected and treated at the medical facility at Camp Lemonnier Naval Expeditionary Base.

Separately, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter from the 26th MEU suffered structural damage when it made a hard landing in an exercise zone at Arta Beach in the evening. No aircrew were injured in that incident, the navy said.

The incidents prompted the central command to cancel the remainder of Alligator Dagger. The annual U.S. Navy and Marine Corps training exercise began this week at Arta Range Complex in Djibouti.

“A safety stand-down has been initiated for all exercise participants,” Urban said.

Both crashes remain under investigation. All other routine operations have not been affected, and Navy personnel continue their operations in the region.

CNN reported that the grounding came at the request of the Djiboutian government.

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