KF-16 tragedyYet another KF-16 fighter jet crashed last Friday, leaving us at a loss for words. The crash occurred only five months after the same type of jet crashed over the East Sea. Five months ago, a faulty engine caused the crash.
The Air Force chief of staff resigned and several of the mechanics involved were disciplined. The probe into the crash found that the 240 billion won ($262 million) allotted for fighter jet maintenance had been misappropriated and that in one year there had been over 2,000 cases in which parts from one aircraft were taken to be used in another aircraft because of budget shortages.
After the crash earlier this year, the Air Force announced that it would form a task force to reform and set up a comprehensive plan to overhaul its military supply system. It even came up with a “Rainbow Project” of seven major measures of reform to revitalize the force. Kim Eun-ki, the new Air Force chief of staff, even worked as part of the maintenance crew for a day and personally flew a KF-16 to boost morale.
However, this recent crash leads to serious doubt whether the Air Force’s reforms were merely for show. Jet plane crashes can always happen, and there can be various reasons behind them. However, when there are too many crashes occurring in too short a span of time, one cannot help suspecting a problem in the system.
There were nine fighter jet crashes from 1990 to 1999. Since 2000, there have been19. There is talk that a considerable number of the 130 KF-16 jets in the Air Force may have defective engines. The Ministry of Defense and the Air Force must investigate carefully to determine the reason for last Friday’s crash, and implement a strict inspection of all fighter jet engines and maintenance systems to ensure that such tragic incidents do not occur again.