F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Pilot's focus on enemy targets caused death

April 2, 2007 (by AFNews) - Air Force officials completed an investigation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon accident 20 miles northwest of Baghdad Nov. 27, which resulted in the death of the F-16's pilot, Maj. Troy Gilbert.

Maj. Troy Gilbert, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, was killed when his jet crashed while providing close support Nov. 27 in Iraq. Gilbert was the standardization and evaluation chief for the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and was deployed from the 309th Fighter Squadron from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

According to the accident investigation board report released April 2 by Air Combat Command, Major Gilbert led a flight of two F-16s in an aerial combat mission near Taji, Iraq. On the ground, insurgents were unleashing truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars to attack coalition troops. In addition, a downed Army helicopter crew was in danger of being overrun.

The report said Major Gilbert engaged the insurgents, launching a strafing attack against enemy vehicles, striking a truck with the F-16's 20-millimeter Gatling gun.

Major Gilbert then conducted a second strafing pass from an extremely low altitude that was not recoverable, impacting the ground. He died immediately on impact.

Operating in a dynamic and stressful environment, Major Gilbert's motivation to succeed helped save the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces, said Brig. Gen. David L. Goldfein, the commander of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and president of the accident investigation board.

The official cause of the accident was Major Gilbert's "channelized attention manifested by his desire to maintain a constant visual positive identification of targeted enemy vehicles and subsequent target fixation on these vehicles while they were traveling at a high rate of speed," the report said. These two factors, when combined, caused Major Gilbert "to begin, and then press his attack below a recoverable altitude."

Major Gilbert deployed in September 2006 from Luke AFB, Ariz., to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Balad Air Base, Iraq. He was assigned as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group chief of standardization and evaluation. On the day of the accident, he was flying with the 524th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.

The aircraft was assigned to the 524th EFS deployed from Cannon AFB, N.M. The $23.2 million aircraft was destroyed on impact.

Update: Major Gilbert has been posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

In Memoriam