A US helicopter carrying five servicemen crashed somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, killing all the crew members onboard. The tragic accident comes amid the United States’ intensified deployment in the Middle East following the October 7 Hamas attacks and the Israeli counter-offensive in Gaza.
According to preliminary reports, the helicopter went down during a regular training exercise. The US European Command said in a statement, “During a routine air refueling mission as part of military training, a US military aircraft carrying five service members suffered a mishap and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. All five of the service members onboard the aircraft were killed.”
The US European Command also noted in its official statement that search and rescue efforts were initiated immediately after the crash, and an investigation into the cause is underway. According to two anonymous US officials, the soldiers on board the chopper were members of the US Army’s special operations unit.
The US European Command’s statement categorically mentions that the chopper was on a regular mission without links to its recent regional deployment.
However, a Middle-East-based expert who spoke to EurAsian Times on the condition of anonymity said: “It is likely that the chopper was on a training mission, and it is also equally possible that it was carrying out a mission against Iran-backed militias or in favor of Israel.
“There is no way to ascertain that for now. However, if the special forces were supporting Israel, it could be the first US casualty in the Israel-Hamas war.”
Although military officials did not disclose the location from where the helicopter took off, the United States has deployed two aircraft carriers — the Ford and the Eisenhower- along with auxiliary ships, dozens of aircraft, and thousands of marines to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Soon after the news of the crash broke, social media erupted into a storm, with military experts/netizens speculating the aircraft in question could have been an MH-60 Black Hawk chopper.
Some other netizens asked aloud why the service sent the crew to the region in the first place at a time when US troops across the Middle East have come under attack by regional adversaries.
As of now, no connection has been established between attacks on the US troops and the recent crash. However, there has been a spike in attacks on US forces across the Middle Eastern region, with more than 40 attacks recorded since mid-October, mainly on US troops stationed in Iraq and Syria. All these attacks have been attributed to Iran and its alleged proxies.
🇸🇾🇺🇸 Al Majadin: US bases in Syria are under fire, Americans have been killed.
American military bases in eastern and northeastern Syria came under fire. According to Al Majadin TV channel, military personnel were killed. The attack was in response to US strikes on… pic.twitter.com/hkAcsqUmcf
— Megatron (@Megatron_ron) November 13, 2023
These attacks have also triggered a spate of strikes by the US forces. A strike was carried out on the day of the crash, too. The US Department of Defense announced on November 12 that “US military forces conducted precision strikes today on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to continued attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria.”
The statement read, “The President has no higher priority than the safety of US personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.” This was the third strike to take place in just over two weeks.
Earlier, USS Carney, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer in the northern Red Sea, shot down several missiles and drones that the Iranian-backed Houthis allegedly launched in Yemen. At the time, the Pentagon said that the missiles were headed towards Israel.
In a nutshell, the US troops in the region remain vulnerable to attacks by regional militant groups supported by Iran that have accused Washington of aiding Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Nonetheless, the Pentagon has intensified its Middle East deployment to prevent regional escalation.
On its part, Iran has upped the ante against the United States in the wake of Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which has somewhat offset US military calculations in the region.
Iran Claims Photographing US Carrier
On November 5, a video was published with claims that the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had managed to take photographs of the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as it arrived in the region.
EurAsian Times research found a similar video published in 2019, and it was likely rehashed and republished without real context on social media.
The video featuring Iran’s Tasnim News Agency logo begins with a shot of the Ababil III drone parked on a taxiway. In the next frame, the drone is seen taking off from the taxiway and approaching the US Carrier, reportedly sailing somewhere in the Persian Gulf region. However, the broadcast does not mention the exact location of the American vessel.
With thrilling music playing in the background, the video captures a bird’s eye view of the carrier, presumably taken by the Ababil III drone. As seen in the video below, the IRGC and its drone took very high-resolution images of the carrier deck, lined with several fighter jets. Interestingly, the video also features specific markings on the jets parked on the carrier.
Now that the the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) has arrived in the region
It is worth noting that we took high quality pictures of this aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, without the US Navy even realizing it pic.twitter.com/bEkQXxQq4S
— Iran Observer (@IranObserver0) November 5, 2023
The video also features some IRGC crew that appears to be coordinating the surveillance mission, operating the Ababil III drone, and looking at the US carrier and its deck in real time. The video gives a clear glimpse of most warplanes stationed on the deck. According to claims made by the IRGC, the drone was not intercepted by the US troops, who remained unaware of its presence until the mission was over.
As soon as the video went viral on social media, pro-Iranian netizens observed that if the drone could capture the deck without the notice of US troops, the drone could carry out an attack. There have been no news reports related to the incident, and neither side issued a statement.
The US forces continue to be under fire in the Mediterranean, with Iran and militias affiliated to it upset by Israeli Defense Forces bombing and later crossing into Gaza and the United States offering military and diplomatic support to it.
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