US F-16 Crashes Into Sea Off South Korea After In-Flight Problem

(Bloomberg) -- A US F-16 jet on a training mission crashed into waters off the coast of South Korea, stoking safety concerns after eight US airmen were killed last month in the crash of a V-22 Osprey aircraft near a Japanese island.

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The F-16 crashed into the sea Monday after the plane experienced “an in-flight emergency over the Yellow Sea,” the US Kunsan Air Base said in a statement. The pilot ejected the aircraft, was later recovered and is in good condition, Colonel Matthew Gaetke, the 8th Fighter Wing commander, said in the statement.

“The cause of the in-flight emergency is unknown and the incident will be thoroughly investigated,” according to the statement. The air base is some 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of Seoul.

The crash of the Osprey off the southwestern Japanese island of Yakushima ultimately prompted the US military to ground its entire fleet of several hundred of the aircraft to check for a possible equipment problem that may have been the cause of the accident, military officials said.

Before the decision to ground the fleet, the Japanese government had called for US military forces in the country to suspend use of the Osprey, which was made by a unit of Boeing Co. and the Bell Helicopter unit of Textron Inc., so that checks could be conducted.

The crash in Japan returned scrutiny to the Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. Early years of setbacks and accidents — especially in 2000, when two crashes killed 23 Marines — triggered a major Pentagon review and subsequent design changes for the aircraft that served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Adds statement from US air base.)

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