A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed Friday during a close air support mission for ground forces in Iraq, the Central Air Command reported. The U.S. military also announced that five more soldiers had died.
The Air Force announcement, which referred to the 12:27 a.m. crash as an accident, did not say where it occurred or what happened to the pilot, the single crew member.
The loss of an F-16, a workhorse warplane in the Iraq war, is a rare event. One crashed last Nov. 27 in the western province of Anbar, killing the pilot.
The jet was deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, 50 miles north of Baghdad.
"The cause of the accident is under investigation," said the statement from the Central Command Air Forces, which provided no further details.
In other developments:
Defense Secretary Robert GatesFriday.
Gates told reporters the military wasn't trying to paint an overly optimistic picture of how the war is going.
"It's a very mixed picture," he said when asked whether the military and commanding Gen. David Petraeus were offering realistic assessments of the violence in Baghdad. Since Feb. 14, the military has sent nearly 30,000 more soldiers to Iraq, most of them to Baghdad.
"I have every confidence in General Petraeus and in his ability and willingness to call it as he sees it," Gates said.
Three of the U.S. soldiers, whose deaths were announced Friday by the military, died when a bomb exploded near their vehicle Thursday during operations in Kirkuk province, in northern Iraq. Another soldier was wounded in the blast.
A fourth soldier was killed by small arms fire the same day in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. And another soldier died Wednesday in a non-combat related incident, which the military said it was investigating.
All were assigned to Task Force Lightning, and their names were withheld pending family notification.