A US F-16 fighter jet encountered an “in-flight emergency” off South Korea's west coast and crashed today, but the pilot was able to bail out, the US military said.
“The F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft (…) encountered an emergency while flying over the West Sea (also known as the Yellow Sea) and at approximately 08:41 (local time; 01:41 Greek time),” the US Korean Air Force said in a statement. .
Its operator used an ejection seat and was later “recovered at 09:30 (02:30)”, “conscious” and “taken to a medical center to undergo tests,” the same source said.
Maj. Gen. Matthew Kotki, the commander of the US Air Force wing that belonged to the aircraft, expressed “thanks” to South Korea's assistance in “allowing the speedy recovery of our pilot.”
“We will now focus on the search and recovery of the aircraft,” he added, adding that the cause of the crash would not be made public until the ongoing investigation is complete.
The South Korean port authority, contacted by AFP, said the plane crashed near Moktok Island off South Korea's west coast.
This is the third time a US fighter jet of this type has crashed in South Korea since May 2023. In all three cases, the pilots of the fighter jets were rescued.
Washington, Seoul's main ally, has stationed about 28,500 US troops in South Korea to defend against a nuclear-armed North Korea.