A U.S. Air Force pilot was killed Sunday when an F-16 fighter jet crashed in the Middle East, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command.
The pilot, who was not identified, died when the jet crashed in a non-combat mission as it flew back to a military base. The crash did not occur in Iraq or Syria, according to Central Command. For several months the United States has launched airstrikes in both countries to combat Islamic State terrorists.
The cause of the incident remains under investigation.
Last summer the U.S. Air Force grounded more than 80 aging F-16 fighter jets after structural cracks were found near the cockpits. In total, there are 969 F-16s of all variants in the Air Force and only the D models had structural cracks.
The F-16 fighter jet is scheduled to be replaced by the F-35 fighter jet in the coming years, though the implementation has been slowed by technical delays and billions of dollars in unexpected costs.
Staff writer W.J. Hennigan contributed to this report.