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Two Thai F-16s crash during exercise

February 14, 2011 (by Asif Shamim) - Two Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) F-16s taking part in the Cobra Gold 2011 exercise crashed in Chaiyaphum province today. Both pilots managed to eject safely.

Airforce spokesman Air Vice Marshal Monthon Satchukorn said the two F-16s disappeared from radar at 10.20h local time.

They were part of a flight of four F-16s which took off from Wing 1 of Nakhon Ratchasima at 08:00h to take part in the Cobra Gold exercise, the annual joint Thai-US military exercise.

The jets crashed into the forest between Lae Hu Kwang and Wang Phon villages in tambon Tha Hin Ngom in Muang district of Chaiyaphum province.

Initial reports had only indicated one plane had crashed.

Monthon said that the two fighters (#81-0668 and #81-0774) were the first to have crashed from the batch of 16 F-16s purchased from the United States in 2002 delivered as part of Peace Naresuan IV program.

Search and rescue teams in helicopters and vehicles are being been sent into the area near Tat Ton waterfall to find the pilots. However Group Captain Krisda Sukchan and Flight Lieutenant Chatchanon Promdet had contacted the base and confirmed they are both safe after the accident.

Air Force commander Ithaporn Suphawong had ordered the Air Safety Division to set up an board of inquiry into the crash.