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A US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft that crashed in the Middle East on 30 November killed the pilot, US Central Command (CENTCOM) has confirmed.

In a statement, CENTCOM claimed that the aircraft went down in a non-combat-related incident while returning to its base in the Middle East shortly after takeoff.

A spokesperson for the CENTCOM commented: "First responders remain on the scene. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

"Additional details will be released when they become available."

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren was quoted by Stars and Stripes as saying: "Apparently there were some maintenance problems on takeoff.

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"It turned around and unfortunately was not able to land."

CENTCOM has refused to disclose the crash location, saying it did not occur in Iraq or Syria. Media reports however have indicated that the fighter went down in Jordan while participating in Operation Inherent Resolve, the US’s operation against the Islamic State (IS) militants.

The pilot, whose identity remains undisclosed pending next-of-kin notification, is the third US Military fatality from the current operation.

On 1 October, US Marine corporal Jordan Spears died at sea while conducting flight operations against IS in the North Arabian Gulf. Lance corporal Sean Neal also died from a noncombat-related injury in Iraq on the 23 October, according to the news agency.

"First responders remain on the scene. The cause of the incident is under investigation."

The US and allied military aircraft are currently flying out of the CENTCOM headquarters and Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Ali al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait, Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE, as well as a major base in Bahrain, to conduct airstrikes on IS militants in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, coalition aircraft intensified airstrikes in the Syrian cities of Ar Raqqah, Aleppo, and the Kurdish-controlled border town of Kobani over the weekend.

A total of 28 airstrikes have been launched on IS fighters near Mosul, Sinjar, Tal Afar, Tal Talab, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Ramadi, Iraq, in the last three days.

Apart from the US, several countries have joined in fight against IS, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK.

Image: A USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 40 aircraft flying over Iraq. Photo: courtesy of master sgt Andy Dunaway.

Defence Technology