April 25, 2016 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A Norwegian fighter jet on a training exercise has mistakenly opened fire on a control tower with three officers inside. Two F-16s were taking part in a mock attack on the uninhabited island of Tarva off Norway's west coast when one of them opened fire with its M61 gun system.
Close up of the M61 gunport on a Norwegian F-16A. The copper color is copper-grease, applied to the gunport to protect it from the hot gasses during firing. Burns from the gasses are difficult to clean after a firing period. [F-16.net photo]
The The General Electric M61A1 Vulcan
is a 6-barrel 20mm cannon of the gatling-type. It fires standard M50 ammunition at 6,000 rounds per minute (rate selectable in certain installations).
A hail of shells hit the tower in the incident, which happened shortly after midnight on April 13, but the officers inside were not injured. The fighter jet was supposed to fire at a simulated target on the airfield some 500 meters (550 yards) away but clearly something went wrong. The lookout tower was slightly damaged by the gunfire.
In a similar incident in 2009, F-16s fired in error on the same tower, with at least one round piercing the structure, but again no-one was injured.
It’s not the only incident of an F-16 misfiring. In 2014 a Dutch fighter jet accidentally strafed the control tower at the Vliehors range in the Waddensea during a training flight. During the incident, several live rounds from the aircraft’s 20mm cannon caused minor damage to the tower. Two controllers who were inside the building at the moment of the attack were not injured.
In 2008 two US soldiers in a sport utility vehicle had the scare of their live when an F-16 from Hill Air Force Base opened fire on their SUV
at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR
). The pilot had rolled into a strafing run, came out of the roll and missed his target by 1.5 miles, instead firing on the two soldiers who were part of the training operations taking place.
In 2004, a USAF pilot accidentally fired 27 rounds at a school in New Jersey
during a nightly training exercise. There were no injuries but the 2-inch rounds punched holes in the school's roof and ceiling tiles, tore the carpet and made indentations in the asphalt parking lot.