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U.S. Air Force releases names of airmen killed in New Mexico crash

(Reuters) - Three U.S. Air Force officers killed when their small reconnaissance plane crashed near a municipal airport in eastern New Mexico were identified on Thursday.

Captain Andrew Becker, 33; Captain Kenneth Dalga, 29; and First Lieutenant Frederick Dellecker, 26, died when their plane came down near the Clovis airport during a training exercise on Tuesday, the Air Force said in a statement.

All three men were assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, about 200 miles (322 km) east of Albuquerque near the border with Texas.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of those involved in this tragic accident," Air Force Wing Commander Colonel Ben Maitre said in a statement.

The three men were aboard a U-28A aircraft when it crashed. The cause of the accident is under investigation, the military said in a statement.

Becker, who was married and from Michigan, was the pilot of the plane and Dellecker, who was from Florida, was co-pilot, the statement said. Dalga, a North Carolina man who was married and had a son, was a combat systems operator.

The U-28A, built by Pilatus Aircraft Ltd [PILAT.UL], is a single-engine propeller plane the U.S. military uses for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, according to the Air Force. Unlike some larger planes, it can land on dirt and grass airstrips.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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