BAF F-16AM caught fire during routine ground maintenance

Yesterday 11 October, the whole Belgian press mediatized a heavy incident that took place at Florennes, home base for the 2nd Tactical Wing in southern Belgium. In a first press release, the Defense ministry simply stated what follows: "On October 11, 2018, at approximately 2:10 pm, a fire broke out during maintenance work on an F-16AM. The plane burned out. A second aircraft suffered collateral damage. In this context, one technician was injured (hearing disorders). He was treated on the spot. An investigation has been initiated by the ASD (Aviation Safety Directorate).

How the Belgian Air Force lost 5 percent of its F 16 fleet in a day The destroyed F-16AM of the Belgian Air Component base of Florennes
(Credit: undisclosed. Published on Facebook)

"For indeterminate reasons, a plane caught fire on a platform outside and an investigation will be conducted to determine the causes of the incident that are not yet known at this time," Lt.Col. Didier Di Giovanni, responsible for air activities at the Florennes base, said yesterday. The fighter-bomber was filled with kerosene, it completely exploded while two other F-16s were also in maintenance nearby. Unofficial sources confirmed that "In a nearby hangar, positioned at the extension of the flight line, a technician was working on an F-16. By accident, the six-barrels 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 canon of that F-16 was activated. Apparantly, the canon was loaded and some bullets hit the FA128. This aircraft was was just fueled and prepared together with another F-16 for an upcoming afternoon sortie. By the impact of the 20mm bullets, FA128 exploded instantly and damaged two other F-16s. Extremely lucky, nobody got killed, one technician incurred hearing impairment."

The fire was quickly brought under control and the coordination with the rescue services went smoothly. "We counted a light casualty who was evacuated by ambulance, a person who suffers from hearing problems probably due to secondary explosions and was evacuated to the UHC hospital," Lt.Col. Didier Di Giovanni said. Activities are suspended until this Friday, October 12, on the air base of Florennes.

"The material damage is very important. The plane that caught fire is probably destroyed”, Lt.Col. Di Giovanni said yesterday. In addition to the destroyed aircraft, two others were hit. A new F-16 represents 40 million euros. This is a significant loss for the Belgian army. The Air component had, prior to the loss of this aircraft - and possibly a second one - 54 F-16s delivered between the end of 1982 and 1991, which the government initiated the replacement procedure under a contract for an initial amount of 3.6 billion euros.

The 2nd Tactical Wing is installed on the Florennes Air Base. The unit has 1,150 military and 30 F-16 fighter aircraft divided into two squadrons: the 1st and 350th squadrons. The 1st Squadron carries out the offensive operations in order to neutralize the enemy's military potential and support the troops on the ground. It also handles tactical reconnaissance flights and photographs the territories overflown. The 350th Squadron is entrusted with the defense of airspace. Both squadrons are part of the NATO Rapid Response Force (NRF). Four of these aircraft, which have been serviced by about 50 people, have been deployed since early September for four months at the Siauliai airbase (Lithuania) as part of the NATO air policing mission BAP ("Baltic Air Policing").

How the Belgian Air Force lost 5 percent of its F 16 fleet in a day 2 The destroyed F-16AM of the Belgian Air Component base of Florennes
(Credit: Twitter account of Tony Delvita)