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Coalition calls off search for Bahraini F-16

October 1, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Last night the international search for a Bahraini F-16 which vanished during an exercise on Saturday was called off. The massive search had failed to turn up any evidence of the plane or its pilot, said US naval Forces Central Command spokesman Commander Hal Pitman.
It is thought Bahraini pilot Lieutenant Colonel Abdulaziz Snan Al Dossary could have crashed into the sea after becoming disorientated during a dive manoeuvre.

Bahraini, US, British, Australian and New Zealand rescue teams have been searching for any sign of the plane or the pilot, without success.

They searched for nearly 70 hours and covered more than 1,300 square miles of water, with ships, small boats and helicopters. An area five times the size of Bahrain was covered.

Experts think the Royal Bahrain Air Force pilot's senses could have been confused by the night conditions. This is especially likely because there was no moon in the sky to use as a point of reference.

The fact that there was no mayday signal prior to the disappearance also indicates the pilot was unaware of any immediate danger.

An investigation is now under way to discover exactly what happened to the aircraft, which disappeared off the radar at around 8pm on Saturday.

However, it is assumed Lt Col Al Dossary did not eject from the plane as it went down. The ejector seat would have given off a signal when it touched the water.

Lt Col Al Dossary is described as one of the most senior officers in the F-16 First Squadron and a qualified flight instructor.

He was said to be flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet just moments before his plane disappeared from the radar.

A second F-16 involved in the exercise later landed safely in Bahrain.

It is thought Lt Col Al Dossary crashed into the sea after performing a dive maneuvre with his wingman.

Sometimes you think you are climbing when you are actually diving. Especially when you are doing combat manoeuvres at night. You turn and do loops and it is possible to lose sense of where you are.

Lt Col Al Dossary's wife is understood to have given birth to a baby boy just days before his disappearance.

The BDF is expected to issue a statement on the incident once the recovery mission is completed.