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Oklahoma National Guard Jet Crashes In Iraq

Updated:
A military jet that crashed in Iraq last week belonged to the Oklahoma Air National Guard wing in Tulsa. The F-16 was deployed to Iraq a few weeks ago. It crashed Friday, killing the pilot, a member of the Ohio Air National Guard. That pilot was flying the jet from Tulsa's 138th Fighter Wing because the Oklahoma and Ohio units are sharing equipment and taking turns deploying to Iraq.

A large group of Tulsa airmen begins its rotation in Iraq next week.

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BAGHDAD (AP) _ An Ohio National Guard pilot was killed when his F-16 fighter crashed shortly after takeoff from Balad Air Base in central Iraq, an Air Force spokesman reported Saturday.

``They're investigating the accident and we won't know the exact cause until that's completed. But it doesn't appear to be hostile fire,'' said Col. Thomas Deall, a spokesman in the region for the U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

In an initial statement late Friday, the Air Force said the jet went down at 12:27 a.m. Friday while on a mission to support a ground forces operation. Deall said it crashed 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the Balad base, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

The identity of the pilot _ the single crew member _ was not immediately released, pending notification of the next of kin.

In Columbus, Ohio, a National Guard spokesman said the pilot was a member of the 180th Fighter Wing based in Toledo. Spokesman Mark Wayda said about 270 of the unit's 1,000 members were deployed to Iraq last month, operating under the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad.

The loss of an F-16, a workhorse warplane in the Iraq war, is a rare event. One crashed last Nov. 27 in the western province of Anbar, killing the pilot.
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