On October 11th, an F-16A fighter jet was destroyed and one F-16A received minor damage, after a technician accidentally opened fire from another plane during ground maintenance in Belgium’s Florennes Air Base.
Two people receive minor injuries and were treated on site. They mostly sustained hearing injuries due to the explosion’s shock wave.
The destroyed fighter jet was grounded near a hangar when it was accidentally fired upon by another F-16A which was undergoing routine ground maintenance. As reported by F-16.net, several explosions were heard, and thick black smokes could be seen from a distance.
Brand in Florennes ! pic.twitter.com/Uwu9gS04r3
— Tony Delvita (@ebcrew00) October 11, 2018
Civilian firefighters were deployed to the scene as well as an ambulance.
The Belgian The Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD) is currently investigating the exact cause.
The Florennes Air base houses the 2nd Tactical Wing which comprises the 1st ‘Stingers’ Squadron and the 350th ‘Ambiorix’ Squadron. It contained about 20 F-16s.
There was another recent incident with an F-16A, when on June 4th a Taiwanese pilot was killed as his jet crashed in the mountains at the start of Taiwan’s annual live drills.
The defense ministry, local police and fire department conducted land and air searches for the 31-year-old pilot, Major Wu Yen-ting, for hours before discovering the wreckage of the plane.
2 injured, F-16 destroyed in an explosion during a ground maintenance at the Florennes military base in Florennes, Belgium pic.twitter.com/kaE2WSPXT8
— Khalid khi (@khalid_pk) October 11, 2018
Wu was also involved in a previous F-16 accident in Taiwan, in 2013, when he parachuted to safety following a suspected mechanical failure with jet #93-0723.
Wu graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009, and had amassed a total flight time of 1,039 hours, including 736 hours with the F-16 jet, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. Thus, it is unlikely that he made a mistake that cost him his life.
It wouldn’t be strange if an issue with the F-16A was the cause both in the case with the accidental fire during maintenance, as well as with the plane crashes of the Taiwanese pilot.
There was another, even older incident with Belgian F-16A’s when in August 2012 a pilot departed for a training flight from Kleine Brogel AFB and during his return the jet caught fire and the pilot had to parachute into trees. The pilot, Jean Francois Van Cranem had over 500 flight hours, out of which 132 were on the F-16.
It is possible that all of these cases are due to incompetence, but they could also be due to faulty hardware.
There is also a somewhat recent mistake in the European Air Force due to incompetence, when on August 7th, 2018, a Spanish pilot accidentally shot an air-to-air missile from his Eurofighter Typhoon while on patrol above Estonia. The missile landed some 40 miles away from the Russian border and could have led to a more serious issue, luckily it didn’t.
On October 2nd it was reported that the Spanish pilot received the minimum penalty in the form of a fine in the amount of one week’s pay or 14 days of arrest. The Spanish Air Force concluded that the pilot shot the missile due to negligence, however there were unspecified “mitigating factors.”