Nine soldiers are dead after a crash involving two Black Hawk helicopters out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Wednesday night, a training accident that is one of the deadliest in Army history.
“This is a truly tragic loss for our families, our division and Fort Campbell,” Brig Gen. John Lubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said at a press conference Thursday morning.
On Wednesday night, a pair of 101st Airborne Division Black Hawks were conducting routine training in southwestern Kentucky. The pilots were using night vision, a common practice for units to practice flying in low visibility. There was no hazardous weather, according to National Weather Service data.
It’s unclear what caused the two Black Hawks to crash, but the pilots were able to bring the aircraft down in an open field, away from a nearby residential area, according to Lubas. None of the soldiers on the two helicopters survived.
An investigation team from the service is set to arrive at the crash site Thursday afternoon.
It marks one of the deadliest days for the Army outside of combat since the 1994 Green Ramp disaster in which 24 soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, died after a F-16 fighter jet collided with a C-130 with the wreckage hitting a C-141 and igniting jet fuel and ammunition next to a group of paratroopers.
Five soldiers have died in on-duty aviation incidents per year on average since 2018, according to data from the Army Combat Readiness Center, which tracks training mishaps. The bulk of those incidents involved Black Hawks, which are produced by defense giant Lockheed Martin. In February, two chief warrant officers with the Tennessee Army National Guard died when their Black Hawk crashed near Huntsville, Alabama.
Last year, Lockheed was awarded a $2.3 billion contract to build at least 120 H-60M Black Hawks as the Pentagon works on plans for its next generation helicopter.
In 2021, after a series of Black Hawk crashes, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called on the Pentagon to review the safety of the aircraft. “I ask that you take all necessary steps to promptly investigate these incidents to determine if they fit a larger pattern of malfunction with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,” Gillibrand said in a statement at the time.
The investigation into the crash is likely to take months, with high-profile accidents also typically getting intense scrutiny from Congress and the media.
The Navy’s investigation into the deadly sinking of a Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle in 2020, which left nine service members dead, went on for more than a year and concluded with a report more than 800 pages long and a dozen officials reprimanded or fired.
— Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.