A Marine Corps. pilot was killed when his F/A-18C Hornet crashed during a training exercise on July 28, according to officials.
The name of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing pilot has not been released pending family notification.
A marine who wished to remain anonymous said in the moments prior to the crash the aircraft “was in a dive preparing to drop ordnance on a simulated target when the aircraft broke apart in midair and erupted into a fireball,” according to the Washington Post.
The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.
The pilot was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and was flying near Twentynine Palms, California, at 10:30 p.m. local time when the accident occurred.
— MCAS Miramar, 3rdMAW (@MCASMiramarCA) July 29, 2016
Aviation readiness in the military has come into question due to budget cuts, which has resulted in servicemen and women accumulating less training hours.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis along with other top military brass told the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee of their concerns surrounding preparation.
“We can launch 42 percent (443 aircraft) of our required 1,065 flightline inventory,” Davis said. “We are still far short of what we need to be in the course of readiness; 42 percent is not good enough. It’s not good at all. We’re in a deep hole and have a ways to go to climb out.”
He added, “We’re proficient, but we’re not as good as we need to be.”
Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, the deputy commanding general for Army Training and Doctrine Command stated similar points.
“I often describe aviation as a fragile ecosystem,” said Mangum. “In order to keep this ecosystem healthy and thriving, all the requisite parts need to be nourished and maintained. If any get out of balance for long, the whole system can begin to fray and collapse.”
Last October, another pilot was killed when an F/A-18C from the 3rd Aircraft Wing crashed in England during a training flight. Major Taj Sareen was 34.