The Bahrain International Airport was shut down Saturday after a U.S. fighter aircraft, F-18, crashed on the runway, reports said.
The aircraft pilot was safe, Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, said in a statement, according to ABC News. Urban also said the aircraft suffered an engine problem because of which it tried to divert to Shaikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead landed at Bahrain's commercial airport.
This is not the first time that an F-18 aircraft has crashed. In April, a pilot was forced to eject from a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet during an attempted landing on the deck of the Vinson in the Celebes Sea, south of the Philippines, according to an official statement.
However, the pilot was recovered safely. The statement also said: "The incident is currently under investigation. The pilot is being assessed by the medical team on board USS Carl Vinson and there are no apparent injuries at this time."
On Dec. 7, 2016, another U.S. F/A-18 Hornet jet crashed in Japan. The U.S. Navy confirmed at the time it was the ninth such major incident involving a "Legacy Hornet” in the past six months, according to the Aviationist, a military aviation website.
Prior to the Dec. 7 incident, two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar crashed on November 9 near San Diego, while another jet crashed on October 25, the report said.
On July 27, 2016, an F/ A-18C crashed during a training mission near the Twentynine Palms Marine base, California, which killed Maj. Richard Norton, 36, of Arcadia, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Since 2012, the number of major Navy and Marine Hornet and Super Hornet accidents have increased by 44 percent, a report by U.S. military's independent news sources, Stars and Stripes, said. The report cited the data collected by the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Virginia. These incidents have caused at least $50,000 in damage and in some cases, even death.
In the report, the Navy and Marine Corps leaders blamed the budget cuts of 2011 that "instituted automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration." “It’s extremely clear what’s happened,” said California-based Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot Lt. “Versace,” who requested to be identified by his call sign only as he was not authorized to speak on the issue.
He added: “These aircraft have reached their life span and they continue to extend their life spans for another few thousand flight hours, which hasn’t worked for them due to significant budget decreases. Yet they continue to run these jets that have caused catastrophic incidents.”
“I believe naval aviation is at risk of eventual systemic failure,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Harmer, who is working as a senior naval analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
He added: “Either funding needs to be significantly increased in order to restore airframe availability and pilot proficiency and support current operations, or operational tempo needs to be drastically reduced.”
Several pilots have also shared how the life support systems on all F/A-18 jets are gradually failing to supply with safe, breathable air, Fox News reported in May. There have been instances when there has been a breakdown of life support systems, like the “On-board Oxygen Generating System," or cabin pressurization system. It is during these instances when the pilots experience "physiological episodes," the report said.
Three active -duty F/A-18 pilots spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity and said they risk their lives as soon as they operate an aging fighter jet. “When I go flying in combat, what’s more, likely to kill me is not getting shot down by enemy fire,” said one of the F/A-18 pilots. “It’s a failure in my most basic life support system.”