The crash disrupted flights to and from the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia, home to the U.S. Navy‘s Fifth Fleet. Images on social media showed the gray fighter jet’s nose tipped into the air but largely intact, after what the Navy described as an “uncontrollable” landing.
The F-18 took off from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a fleet spokesman. While in flight, the plane suffered an engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to divert, Urban said.
The pilot initially tried to land at Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead had to divert to the island’s commercial airport, Urban said.
“Due to the malfunction, the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway and the pilot ejected from the aircraft as it departed the runway,” the commander said in a statement.
Navy officials began an investigation into the crash and were trying to help the airport resume operations, Urban said. Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry called the crash landing a “minor incident” in a statement and said flights resumed at the airport several hours later.
Bahrain hosts 8,000 U.S. servicemembers, mostly sailors, attached to the sprawling Naval Support Activity Bahrain. That base supports the operations of some 20 U.S. and Coalition warships in the Gulf that provide security and anti-piracy patrols.
Bahrain is also the future home to an British naval base under construction.
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