October 22, 2009 (by Asif Shamim) - A Hill AFB based F-16 dropped its 300 gallon fuel tanks and two 500lb bombs outside the main base on waste land after calling an in-flight emergency around 15.30h local time.
One bomb destroyed a works shed, damaged power lines & a transformer on the North West side of the base. It is unclear if the second bomb exploded. Officials pointed out no one on the ground was hurt & the pilot was able to land the jet back safety at the base.
Col. Scott Zobrist, commanding officer of the 388th Fighter Wing, said the pilot of the F-16 Falcon fighter jet, was alerted to an emergency situation during takeoff and, following safety procedures, jettisoned the fuel tanks and munitions before making a final pass to land the $25 million, single-engine fighter.
Zobrist said the F-16 pilot was experienced and followed proper procedures, "which involve jettisoning the stores in order for him to reduce ... his gross weight so he can land safely on the base."
The site of the explosion which was 2500ft away from Interstate 15 resulted in the highway being closed for a short period as public safety officials from the airbase and its surrounding communities attempted to account for the explosives.
Abandoning armaments is not very common, but recently a spate of fuel tank related incidents have been reported in the press including one last week where an F-16 from Vermont's Air National Guard also jettisoned two fuel tanks into Lake Chaplain after declaring a similar in-flight emergency.
Hill officials did not specify the nature of Thursday's emergency nor explain why the pilot was unable to make it to a less densely populated area.
The last such incident reported from Hill goes back to December 2008 where another F-16 dropped tanks into the Great Salt Lakes near Antelope Island.