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US F-16 fighter jet crashes off South Korea

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US fighter jet

An American F-16 fighter jet in an “in-flight emergency” crashed over the West Sea off South Korea early Wednesday, the US military said, adding the pilot had been rescued.

“An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing here experienced an in-flight emergency over the West Sea and crashed at approximately 8:41 a.m. (2341 GMT) today,” the military said in a statement.

“The pilot ejected safely and was recovered at around 9:30 a.m. He is conscious and was transported to a medical facility for assessment.”

The statement applauded the prompt cooperation with South Korea during the rescue operation.

“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 Colonel Matthew C. Gaetke, 8th Fighter Wing commander.

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“Now we will shift our focus to the search and recovery of the aircraft,” he added.

“Information on the cause of the in-flight emergency will not be made available until the conclusion of thorough safety and accident investigations,” the statement said.

The Korea Coast Guard told reporters that the fighter jet had crashed near Mokdeok island, which is off South Korea’s west coast.

This is the third crash of a US F-16 fighter jet in South Korea since May 2023.

A US F-16 fighter plane crashed in December during a normal training exercise due to what the US military described as an “in-flight emergency.” The pilot was also saved.

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Last May, an American F-16 fighter crashed during a routine military exercise in an agricultural area south of Seoul. The pilot evacuated safely, and the crash resulted in no other injuries.

Washington is Seoul’s most significant security ally, stationing some 28,500 troops in South Korea to defend it from the nuclear-armed North.

In neighbouring Japan, the United States military stated late last year that it was halting its V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor jet following a catastrophic crash that killed eight American airmen.

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