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U.S. pilot safely ejects from F-16 fighter jet before crashing off South Korea

U.S. pilot safely ejects from F-16 fighter jet before crashing off South Korea

The incident, the second in two months, follows the November crash off Japan of a U.S. Air Force Osprey aircraft, which killed all eight crew members on board.

An F-16 fighter jet belonging to the U.S. 8th Fighter Wing taking off from Kunsan Air Base in South Korea in 2021. Tech. Sgt. Kristin High / 8th Fighter Wing via DVIDS

By Larissa Gao

A U.S. Air Force pilot safely ejected from his F-16 fighter jet before it crashed into the sea off South Korea on Wednesday, U.S. military officials said, in the second such crash since last month.

The unidentified pilot was flying over waters off the country’s southwestern coast when he experienced an unspecified “in-flight emergency” and crashed around 8:41 a.m. local time Wednesday (6:41 p.m. Tuesday ET), the U.S. 8th Fighter Wing said in a statement.

The pilot was recovered in less than an hour, the statement said, adding that he was conscious and had been taken to a medical facility for assessment. There were no immediate reports of casualties or property damage arising from the crash, the cause of which is under investigation.

“We are very thankful to the Republic of Korea rescue forces and all of our teammates who made the swift recovery of our pilot possible,” said Col. Matthew C. Gaetke, commander of the 8th Fighter Wing, using South Korea’s formal name. “Now we will shift our focus to search and recovery of the aircraft.”

In December, another F-16 belonging to the 8th Fighter Wing crashed into South Korean waters during a routine training flight. The pilot in that case was also safely recovered after ejecting.

The month before, a U.S. Air Force Osprey aircraft crashed off the coast of Japan during a training mission, killing all eight crew members on board.

Larissa Gao

Larissa Gao is a fellow on NBC’s Asia Desk, based in Hong Kong.

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