KF-16 crash grounds fleet of fighter jets
A Korean Air Force fighter jet crashed into the West Sea yesterday but the two pilots on board were able to eject.
The Korean Air Force was still investigating the exact cause of the KF-16 crash off Taean County, South Chungcheong, at 12:20 p.m. yesterday. The jet belonged to the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing.
The two pilots on board escaped the plummeting jet at the last minute, according to the Air Force. Lieutenant Colonel Sohn and Captain Kwak were rescued by two separate Air Force helicopters and are being treated for injuries at an Air Force hospital in Cheongju, North Chungcheong. The Air Force declined to release their full names.
The Air Force said the KF-16 jet took off from its base in Seosan, South Chungcheong, at 11:50 a.m. The jet was carrying out an air maneuver exercise when it stopped functioning for causes still unknown.
The Air Force has grounded all KF-16s and assigned Kim Yong-hong, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, to lead the investigation into the cause of the crash.
This was the fourth KF-16 crash since 2005 - there were two in a span of five months in 2007. In February 2007, a KF-16 fighter crashed into the West Sea, with the pilot surviving.
A month later, the Air Force announced that poor engine maintenance caused the accident. Mechanics had ignored a recommendation from a U.S. engine maker about replacing a defective part, instead fabricating their maintenance report.
Air Force Chief of Staff Kim Sung-il stepped down after the accident, but in July of 2007, another KF-16 crashed into the West Sea, killing two pilots.
The Korean Air Force has about 130 KF-16s. The jet has a 805-kilometer (500-mile) combat radius - the distance it can fly to enter an air battle and still be able to return home. Each jet costs $43 million.
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]