Two F-5 jets crash in drill, 3 pilots presumed dead

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Two F-5 jets crash in drill, 3 pilots presumed dead


F-5 fighter jets

Two Korean Air Force F-5 fighter jets crashed into a mountain yesterday 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) west of the city of Gangneung, Gangwon.

Body parts that were presumed to belong to the dead pilots were found near Daegwallyeong in Gangwon’s Pyeongchang County.

“In the middle of a search and rescue mission, investigators collected some body parts, clothes and boots,” said a defense official who requested anonymity. “We are assuming that all the pilots died from the accident. It will take some time to confirm the identity of the dead pilots since bodies are damaged in jet crashes.”

The official said that the jets were a one-seat F-5E and a two-seat F-5F. Capt. Euh Min-hyuk controlled the F-5E and First Lt. Choi Bo-ram and Lt. Col. Oh Chung-hyun flew the F-5F, the official said. “We have not yet confirmed the exact cause of the accident but there is a high possibility that an aircraft crashed into Mount Hwangbyeong near Daegwallyeong in Pyeongchang due to poor visibility from a heavy snowstorm,” said the official. “We are going to further investigate the cause of the crash.”


The Air Force said it is looking at four possibilities: pilot error, a midair collision, a loss of consciousness or mechanical problems. Among those possibilities, the Air Force indicated pilot error and a collision are the most likely. The air operation was a training exercise for Choi, a beginner pilot. The Air Force said that the F-5F was following behind the F-5E. Choi was in the front seat and Oh was at the back of the F-5F. “The area near the top of the mountain was very cloudy at the time but above that the sky was clear,” said the official. “It seems that the F-5E went into the cloud while increasing flight altitude and hit the mountain. We assume that the F-5F also crashed due to poor visibility.”

But there is another possibility, according to the official. The F-5F might have lost sight of the F-5E due to weather conditions. After that, the F-5F increased its speed to catch up with the F-5E and may have collided with it, the official said.

The aircraft had taken off from Gangneung Air Base at 12:20 p.m. to conduct maneuvers and disappeared from the radar five minutes later, said the official. Upon losing contact, the Air Force sent two HH-60 rescue helicopters to search for the missing pilots and planes, according to the official. Some mountain climbers reported to local fire stations that they found the wreckage of military jets near the top of Mount Hwangbyeong. Before the discovery, they heard the sound of falling planes and smelled burning fuel at around 12:33 p.m.

The Air Force dispatched its vice chief, Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-hong, to command a fact-finding team and sent 10 Air Force investigators to the scene.

It ordered all air bases across the country to suspend flying F-5 aircraft until the investigation is completed.

The 14.45-meter-long (47.7-foot-long) F-5E and F-5F fighter jets were first manufactured in 1975 and 1984, respectively, in the United States. Those aircraft have been imported to Korea since the 1980s. The jets are 4.07 meters tall and 8.13 meters wide. They weigh 4,410 kilograms (9,723 pounds). Another Air Force officer said the life expectancy of fighter jets is no longer than 30 years. The Korean Air Force currently operates some 180 F-5 fighter jets.

Two Korean pilots died in 2004 after two F-5E jets crashed in the Yellow Sea, and another four servicemen died the following year as F-5F and F-4E jets crashed into the same sea during separate drills. In November 2008, two F-5E fighter jets collided near Pocheon, Gyeonggi, just 46 kilometers northeast of Seoul. One managed to return to its base but the other one crashed into the ground. The pilot from that jet was able to parachute to safety.

By Lee Min-yong []
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강원도 평창 선자령 부근서, 조종사 3명 모두 순직한 듯

공군 18전투비행단 소속 F-5 전투기 2대가 2일 강원도 평창군 선자령에 추락했다. 공군은 1번기 F-5E 조종사 어민혁(공사 53기) 대위와 2번기 F-5F 조종사 오충현(공사 38기) 중령·최보람(사관후보장교 118기) 중위가 모두 순직한 것으로 추정했다.

공군 관계자는 이날 “낮 12시20분 기동훈련을 위해 강릉기지를 이륙한 F-5전투기 2대가 5분 만에 강릉시 서쪽 상공 20㎞ 지점에서 갑자기 레이더에서 사라졌다”며 “이후 선자령에서 사고기 잔해와 조종사 신체 일부, 피복류·군화 조각 등을 발견해 수습했다”고 말했다. 이 관계자는 “전투기 사고의 특성상 시신이 많이 훼손돼 신원 확인까지는 시간이 걸릴 것”이라고 밝혔다. 공군은 김용홍 참모차장을 본부장으로 하는 사고대책본부를 구성해 사고 원인을 조사 중이다.

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