Sources at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego released the names of the seven soldiers killed in last week’s midair collision under clear night skies between an AH-1W “Cobra” and an UH-1Y “Huey.” A spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar said the investigation is expected to take months and refused to comment on any possible causes for the collision.
The two aircraft crashed just a few hours after sunset in the rugged Chocolate Mountain region of the Yuma Training Range Complex during an operation called Scorpion Fire, labeled a routine training exercise. Marine spokesman could not confirm whether the aircraft were equipped with any sort of collision avoidance detection systems such as many civilian aircraft now carry. It is also unlcear whether , if so equipped, avoidance gear would be turned on during this kind of training environment.
The Marines did confirm that the only known external lighting in use aboard either aircraft were the standard, red, green and white position lights.
Casualties included two Marines aboard the Cobra and five on the Huey. Six were from nearby Camp Pendelton and the seventh a base in Yuma. A Marine spokesman confirmed this was the sixth accident for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wingin in the past 17 months.
The Yuma range is comprised of 1.2 million acres in southwest Arizona and northeast California.