US military suspends air defense after helicopter crash

(CNN) Following two recent helicopter crashes that killed 12 soldiers, the US military’s chief of staff has grounded all non-missionary military pilots.

Army Chief James McConville’s order grounded the airmen “until they complete the necessary training,” the military said.

“The safety of our pilots is our top priority, and this stance is an important step to ensure we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” McConville said in a statement.

Military pilots, according to McConville’s directive, “will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crew have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission.”

The security level is down after Thursday Clash in midair Two AH-64 Apache helicopters were shot down near Fort Wainwright, Alaska, killing three soldiers and wounding another. According to a release from the US Army’s 11th Airborne Division, two soldiers died at the scene and a third died while being transported to a hospital.

The crash occurred about 100 miles south of Fort Wainwright, where the helicopters are based as part of the 1st Assault Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment.

“This is an incredible loss for the families of these Soldiers, their fellow Soldiers and the unit,” Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, 11th Airborne Division commander, said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, friends and loved ones, and we are committing the full resources of the military to support them.”

That fatal collision came a few weeks later Nine soldiers were killed Two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime training mission near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the military said.

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The medical evacuation helicopters were on a routine training mission when they crashed in an open field opposite a residential area around 10:00 pm local time. All nine service members aboard the two planes were killed.

According to the army, the incidents are under investigation, but there is “no indication of any kind” between the two.

CNN’s Haley Britsky contributed to this report.

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