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Air Force resumes some flight ops in South Korea after F-16 crash

The U.S. Air Force resumed some South Korea-based flight operations Thursday after an F-16 fighter jet crashed off the Korean peninsula’s coast a day earlier.

The pilot, a member of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, safely ejected and was in good condition Thursday, said Lt. Gen. David Iverson, commander of 7th Air Force, which directs U.S. air operations in South Korea and the surrounding area.

Iverson said 7th Air Force had paused flying operations to focus on search-and-recovery efforts immediately following the crash, but did not specify whether the ground stop was limited to its F-16 fleet. The Air Force declined to provide details of which aircraft and units had resumed normal operations Thursday.

“The Seventh Air Force, as always, is ready to fight tonight,” Iverson said in a statement on the organization’s website. “I remain confident in our ability to provide airpower to deter aggression and maintain the [Korean Armistice Agreement], defend the Republic of Korea and defeat any attack against the ROK-U.S. alliance.”

The pilot in Wednesday’s incident had an unspecified in-flight emergency and ejected before the aircraft crashed into the Yellow Sea just before 8:45 a.m. local time, the Air Force said. The mishap marks the third accident of a South Korea-based F-16 in the last nine months.

The Air Force is investigating what led to the latest accident. Iverson said preliminary findings have not indicated that the F-16 crashes are related.

In May 2023, an F-16 assigned to the 8th FW crashed in an agricultural area about a dozen miles from South Korea’s Osan Air Base. Then in December, a pilot was forced to eject from a Fighting Falcon from the same wing after suffering an in-flight emergency during a training mission. The pilots safely ejected in both cases.

An investigation into May’s crash has finished and will not be made public, Iverson said. The inquiry into December’s crash is still underway.

About three F-16s have been totaled, on average, each year for the past decade, according the latest available data compiled by the Air Force Safety Center in 2021. The multi-purpose fighter was delivered to the Air Force in 1979; the service now owns around 840 F-16s.

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