A US F-18 fighter jet suffering an engine problem crash landed Saturday at Bahrain International Airport and its pilot ejected from the aircraft after it ran off the runway, authorities said. The pilot escaped unharmed. The crash disrupted flights to and from the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that’s home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. Images on social media showed the grey fighter jet’s nose tipped into the air but largely intact. The F-18 took off from the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier now in the Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a fleet spokesman. While in flight, the plane suffered an engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to divert, Urban said. The pilot initially tried to land at Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead had to divert to the island’s commercial airport, Urban said. ”Due to the malfunction, the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway and the pilot ejected from the aircraft as it departed the runway,” the commander said in a statement.
Naval officials began an investigation into the crash and were trying to help the airport resume operations, Urban said. Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry called the crash landing a ”minor incident” in a statement and said flights resumed at the airport several hours later.
Bahrain hosts 8,000 US troops, mostly sailors attached to a sprawling based called the Naval Support Activity. That base oversees some 20 U.S. and coalition naval vessels in the Gulf providing security and others running anti-piracy patrols. Bahrain is also home to an under-construction British naval base.