Shaw F-16 pilot dies in Afghanistan

Capt. James Michael Steel (Source: Shaw Air Force Base)
Capt. James Michael Steel (Source: Shaw Air Force Base)

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - An American F-16 fighter jet from Shaw Air Force Base crashed in eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing the U.S. pilot.

Capt. James Michael Steel, 29, of Tampa, Fla., died in the crash near Bagram Airfield, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron.

According to Stars and Stripes, the plane was on final approach to land after an air support mission when it crashed about 10 miles from the runway.

Steel graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2006, completed pilot training and arrived at Shaw in June 2010. He was the chief of mobility for the 77th Fighter Squadron.

"Our condolences and prayers are with the family, friends and squadron members of Capt. Steel," said Col. Clay Hall, 20th Fighter Wing commander. "This is a difficult time for Shaw AFB, but we are focused on taking care of the Steel family, our Airmen and continuing to execute the mission."

Steel comes from a family with deep roots in the Air Force. His father, Maj. Gen. Robert Steel, was commandant of the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, DC until January of 2011. He spoke at his son's graduation from the 63rd Fighter Squadron in 2009.

Steel's mother and five other siblings all have Air Force ties as well.

NATO said in a statement Thursday that the cause of the crash is still being investigated, but initial reporting indicates that there was "no insurgent activity in the area" when the plane went down.     

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.