April 5, 2018 / 4:55 PM / 17 days ago

U.S. military cancels training exercise near Djibouti after aircraft mishaps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has canceled a training exercise off the coast of Djibouti and paused air operations from the country after two air mishaps this week raised questions about the state of military readiness, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

“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,” the military said in a statement.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Marine Corps jet crashed in Djibouti. The pilot was in stable condition. In a separate incident, a CH-53 helicopter suffered “structural damage” during a landing at Arta Beach, Djibouti.

This is the latest in a recent spate of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, raising questions about readiness.

A U.S. Air Force pilot with the traveling Thunderbirds exhibition squad was killed early Wednesday when his F-16 jet crashed at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed during a training mission in Southern California. All four crew members are believed to have been killed.

“We’re going to look at each one ... I’m certainly not prepared to say that it’s a wave of mishaps or some form of crisis,” Marine Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, told a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.

The accidents come as President Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops along the border with Mexico.

Speaking with reporters at the same press briefing on Thursday, Pentagon officials said they did not yet know where the funding for the National Guard troops would come from, but that military readiness would be appropriately funded.

“I can assure you that our resources will still be dedicated to ensuring that our war fighters get what they need when they need it,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

White said the military was looking into building a wall at its Barry Goldwater Air Force Range in Arizona along the Mexican border.

Officials said most other details, such as how many troops would go to the border and whether they would be armed, were still unknown.

They added that the U.S. military had created a border security support cell that would coordinate between the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish

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