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Stealth Fighters Grounded Pentagon Begins Investigations Of Crashes Of Military Airplanes

The nation’s stealth fighters are grounded following a weekend accident in Maryland and officials are opening investigations in the wake of three military aircraft losses over the weekend.

An Air Force F-117A “Nighthawk” crashed outside of Baltimore on Sunday and its pilot ejected safely; a Navy F-A-18 Hornet crashed in Oman in the Persian Gulf and its pilot was killed; an Air Force C-141 transport is presumed lost after a potential mid-air collision with a German military plane off the coast of Africa.

A search-and-rescue mission is still on for the nine crewmen aboard the U.S. C-141 Starlifter cargo plane, which had just flown cargo from Ascension Island to Namibia and was returning to the British island, Air Force officials said. No wreckage or survivors have been found.

The Soviet-made German air force plane was en route from Germany to Cape Town, South Africa. Presumed killed were 12 German marines, two of their spouses, and 10 crew members.

The high-tech F-117 crashed during an air show at Middle River, Md., setting two houses on fire and injuring six people.

A formal investigation board is expected to be named shortly, and a preliminary probe has begun, Air Force officials said.

Meanwhile, the 49th Fighter Wing in New Mexico, home base for all 53 F-117A fighters, suspended routine flights as a precautionary measure through today.

The standdown will allow maintenance experts from the Air Force and the manufacturer to check the planes before they are returned to service, said Air Force Maj. Ed Worley at the Pentagon.

Amateur video showed a piece of the aircraft, apparently from the tail or a wing, flying off before the wedge-shaped jet spun and crashed.

The Navy is investigating the circumstances surrounding the F-A-18 crash, which occurred during a routine training mission about 75 miles northeast of the southern Omani port of Raysut.

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