Heat of Battle Downed F-16:

The accident investigation into the Nov. 27, 2006, fatal F-16 crash in Iraq found that the pilot, Maj. Troy Gilbert, likely never knew he was too low to the ground during his final close air support strafing run, Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, accident investigation board president, told reporters Monday. “It was a dynamic, stressful combat environment he was involved in,” said Goldfein, who commands the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, N.M. An executive summary of the report states Gilbert’s “channelized attention manifested by his desire to maintain a constant visual positive identification of targeted enemy vehicles” was the cause of the mishap. Gilbert and a second F-16 were flying a non-traditional intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance support mission when they were called to support a coalition helicopter that made a hard landing and coalition ground forces that came under heavy attack from enemy truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and mortars. While Gilbert’s wingman returned to a tanker to refuel, he pressed the attack—engaging and destroying the fleeing lead vehicle on the first pass, said Goldfein. Gilbert pulled out at 200 feet above ground and turned to set up for a second strike, but at that point he was “too low and too close to his intended target,” stated the report. The investigation team found no evidence to suggest the aircraft had suffered combat damage from enemy guns. Goldfein added that the recovered flight recorder indicated that one second before impact, Gilbert had pulled up hard on the stick in a six-g climb—when the tail hit the ground resulting in the destruction of the aircraft and death of the pilot.