An American F-16 fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northeastern Japan late Sunday and was rescued six hours later.
The F-16 “Fighting Falcon” went down about 200 miles from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, the U.S. Air Force said in a statement.
The jet was attached to the 35th Fighter Wing and was traveling from Misawa Air Base in Japan to Alaska.
The joint rescue operation included the Japanese Coast Guard, Japan Self Defense Forces, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and civilian vessels in the area responded to the call. The pilot, who was not named, was reported to be safe aboard an American cargo ship.
“We are thankful for the support from our Japanese friends and other agencies committed to ensuring the safe recovery of our Airman,” said Col. Al Wimmer, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander. “The tireless efforts of everyone involved ensured a successful recovery. We are extremely grateful for their assistance and humbled by the rapid and skilled response. We are proud to be a part of such an effective alliance and send our most heartfelt thanks to all those involved.”
There was no word Monday night on a cause of the crash.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft with more than 4,500 built to date. It has been widely exported to American allies, but the airplane is starting to show its age. It was introduced in 1978.
In the Philippines, there is already hesitation about its air force buying used American F-16s because of their age and remaining lifespan. The Philippines retired its F-5 fighters in 2005 and is completely devoid of jet fighters, allowing foreign incursions on its airspace to go unchecked.
The F-35 “Lighting II” will eventually replace the F-16 and other planes, but the F-35’s progress has been stalled by problems.
The F-16 crash also reignited debate in Japan over American plans to outfit the country with the MV-22 “Osprey” hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft, which has a checkered safety record.
Kyodo news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada trying to calm locals down about the MV-22: “They are completely different matters,” Okada said.