November 11, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - One American pilot was rescued and another missing after two U.S. F-16C/GE-129 jets collided in mid-air over the Sea of Japan on Monday. Japanese and U.S. forces were continuing to search for the other pilot who also ejected from his aircraft.
One pilot, Colonel Michael Lepper, was rescued by Japanese forces in an UH-60. He was the commanding officer of the 35th Operations Group. Piloting the other F-16 was Captain Warren B. Sneed who could not be found and is presumed dead. No ejection was seen from this aircraft.
The Japanese coastguard sent three patrol boats and three aircraft to the scene, about 438 miles north of Tokyo.
The collision took place during joint military exercises (Keen Sword) between Japan and the United States which began on November 2, their first exercises in line with the adoption of new security arrangements last year. Over 21, 000 military personnel and 310 jet aircraft are participating in the 17 days of drills at facilities run by Japan's Self-defense Forces, and in Japanese territorial waters and airspace.
The serial numbers of the F-16s were: