Human Error in Fatal F-15E Mishap

An incorrect assessment of elevation led to an F-15E crashing in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on July 18, killing its aircrew, Air Combat Command announced Tuesday. Two F-15Es from the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield were practicing nighttime strafing after completing a close air support mission. The weapon systems officer in the lead aircraft miscalculated the practice target’s elevation as 4,800 feet above sea level when it was actually at 10,200 feet, said Brig. Gen. H.D. Polumbo, ACC’s plans and programs director who led the accident investigation, during a media teleconference. The second F-15E approached the target not realizing the 5,000-foot discrepancy and subsequently impacted the ground, claiming the lives of Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, and Capt. Mark R. McDowell, 26. “We lost two outstanding officers that day,” said Polumbo. (ACC release) (AIB report; caution, large file.)