2 Air National Guard jets collide in Georgia

Posted at 8:15 AM, Jun 08, 2016

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. (AP) -- Two South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 fighter pilots ejected safely after an apparent midair collision in eastern Georgia, the Guard said.

The collision happened about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday during night training operations over a remote military operating area in Jefferson County, Georgia, a National Guard spokeswoman said.

The jets were assigned to the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing, which operates out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina.

The two male pilots were taken to a hospital, said 1st Lt. Stephen Hudson, a spokesman for the Guard.

Guard spokeswoman Col. Cindi King said Wednesday morning she could not say whether the pilots had been released from medical care.

"The good news is, they were able to eject safely and contact the base immediately to say they were both okay," King said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on the ground.

"We are dealing with two crash sites," Hudson said. Local first responders were securing the area and providing emergency services, the Guard's news release said.

McEntire Joint National Guard Base commander Col. Nicholas Gentile was heading to the crash scene Wednesday morning, King said. The South Carolina Army National Guard was flying Gentile to Georgia aboard a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, King said.

"With the sun out, they will be able to see the area," she said, adding that the Blackhawk helicopters will help in their ability to fly over and assess potential damage.

The area is known as the Townsend Bombing Range and South Carolina Air National Guard fighter jets routinely train there for their electronic warfare and bombing missions.

King said South Carolina National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston Jr. was in Washington on Tuesday night when he got news of the crashes and was returning to Columbia to be updated.

The South Carolina Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force are dispatching teams to investigate the collision.

The collision comes after both of the military's precision flying teams suffered crashes last week.

A Blue Angels F/A-18 crashed last Thursday near Nashville, Tennessee, while taking off for a practice session. The pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, was killed.

Also Thursday, a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, but that pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, ejected safely. The Thunderbirds had just performed over the open-air graduation ceremony at the nearby Air Force Academy, where President Barack Obama spoke.