August 21, 2001 (by Lieven Dewitte) - United States Air Force investigators are trying to determine how a fin from a HARM fell from an F-16 and landed on a residential Florida neighbourhood.
The 4.5-kilogram (10-pound) metal chunk plunged to earth, and is said to have narrowly missed two children. The incident happened on Friday as the plane was preparing to land at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso where the children live.
The fin dropped from an unarmed missile on board. No-one was hurt and no property was damaged. Keith Cash told a local television station on Saturday that the missile fin had hit the ground within three metres (10 feet) of his daughter and another child while they were taking a walk near the base.
Mr Cash returned the fin to the base. It remains unclear whether the Air Force knew it was missing.
"Our safety office... has suspended the testing of this particular missile until the investigation is complete," a spokesman for the base said of the incident.
He said the F-16 had been on a weapons testing mission that did not call for the missile to be launched. The weapon was part of a high-speed anti-radiation missile, or HARM, designed to home in on enemy radar and knock out radar-guided, anti-aircraft missile and gun installations.
This was the latest in a string of mishaps involving F-16s. Five USAF F-16 jet fighters are reported to have crashed in July alone, killing three airmen.
On 6 July, one crashed off the South Carolina coast, killing the pilot.
Eleven days later another plane went down near Edwards Air Force Base, California. The pilot and a passenger died.
The next day, an F-16 pilot bailed out over south-eastern Turkey
due to problems attributed to engine trouble. He survived - as did the occupants of a 16 July crash into an Illinois corn field and a 23 July wreck near Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
F-16s have crashed an average of 13 times a year since 1982, according to USAF statistics.