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Thirds USAF F-16 crash in South Korea in 9 months

February 1, 2024 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An American F-16 fighter jet crashed in waters off South Korea's west coast near Mokdeok island, on Jan 31, with the pilot rescued after ejecting from the aircraft.

USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0286 from the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, flies near the base on Friday, April 28th, 2006. The F-16 was flown by Col. Eric Best, 8th Operations Group commander. [U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Richard Freeland]

“An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing here experienced an in-flight emergency over the West Sea and crashed at approximately 08.41h (23.41h GMT) today,” the United States military said in a statement.

“The pilot ejected safely and was recovered at around 09.30h. He is conscious and was transported to a medical facility for assessment.”

The statement hailed the close cooperation with South Korea during the rescue operation.

“We are very thankful to the Republic of Korea rescue forces and all of our teammates who made the swift recovery of our pilot possible,” said Colonel Matthew C. Gaetke, 8th Fighter Wing commander.

This is the third crash of an American F-16 fighter jet in South Korea since May 2023. Last september, there was also a crash of a South Korean Air Force KF-16.

The incident is the second in about six weeks for the US military in South Korea, following the crash of a US F-16 jet on a training mission into waters off the country’s coast in mid-December. The cause of that incident was also an “in-flight emergency,” the US 8th Fighter Wing said in a statement at the time.

Additional images:

Two USAF F-16A block 10s #80-0490 & #80-0491 from the 35th TFS spotted during a deployment to Kunsan AB in 1981. The aircraft are equiped with travel pods on the left wings and auxiliary fuel tanks. [General Dynamics photo]

Three F-16C block 30s #86-0293, #86-0290 & #86-0305 from the 18th AS fly in formation on their way to a new home behind a KC-135 Stratotanker after their refueling on January 20th, 2008. Eielson AFB and Kunsan AFB swapped seven F-16 jets as a part of the CCIP. [USAF photo by SSgt. Eric T. Sheler]

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot fires one of the first air-to-air missiles launched by a South Korean-based F-16 on Aug. 16. The live fire is part of a process for implementing a weapon system evaluation program for jets assigned to Kunsan Air Base, Korea. [USAF photo by TSgt Jeffrey Allen]