Ministry result

United States resumed F-16 fighter operations in Japan despite ministry request

Amid persistent security concerns, the U.S. military continues to operate F-16 fighter jets based out of its Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture shortly after a dangerous incident in the region.

On November 30, the F-16 jet assigned to the Misawa base dropped two fuel tanks before making an emergency landing at Aomori airport. One of the tanks was found near a local municipal office and the other in a mountainous area.

The US military resumed piloting F-16 fighters after the incident without revealing its direct cause or details of measures taken to prevent it from happening again. The fighters fly to Hokkaido, the Tokyo metropolitan area and Kyushu.

“According to an explanation from the United States, the pilot during a test flight deemed it impossible to continue flying because there was a warning that the engine oil pressure was continuing to drop,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The United States said there was “a time constraint and imminent danger,” Kishi added.

Kishi also said the US military will set up an accident investigation committee. “We will await the results of the investigation,” he said.

Each of the dropped tanks was 4.5 meters long, 1 meter in diameter and weighed 215 kilograms, according to the Defense Ministry.

On December 1, the ministry asked Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, commander of US forces in Japan, to suspend flight operations of the F-16 jets until the safety of the fighters was confirmed. However, the US military unilaterally resumed F-16 operations the next day.

Rupp visited the ministry on Friday, when Kishi expressed regret over the incident. Rupp explained that flight operations resumed after safety checks were carried out on all F-16 jets.

The aircraft, which has the ability to attack over land, is used in the Tohoku region to conduct low-level flight training to avoid radar detection, sources close to Japanese Affairs say. American.

Due to the relocation of training sites as part of the ongoing US military realignments in Japan, F-16 jets from Misawa Air Base fly to the Air Self-Defense Force’s Chitose base in Hokkaido, at Komatsu Base in Ishikawa Prefecture and at Tsuiki Base in Fukuoka Prefecture. .

F-16 jets from Misawa base occasionally fly to US Army Yokota Air Base in Tokyo before departing for Guam for joint training with Japan.

There had been problems with the F-16s at the Misawa base prior to the November incident.

In 2012, a fighter crashed in the waters off the Kuril Islands because the engine’s fuel shut-off valve remained closed, causing the spray to run out of control.

An F-16 jet made an emergency landing at Aomori Airport in 2015 after spilling a fuel tank in the Sea of ​​Japan, due to a malfunction in its petroleum system.

In 2018, a fighter returned to Misawa Air Force Base after dropping fuel tanks due to an engine fire after take-off.

The 2018 accident was caused by the installation of old parts that were forbidden to use. In its accident report, the US military noted problems with the base’s equipment maintenance system.

According to the US Air Force Safety Center, the average number of serious accidents – classified as Class A – caused by F-16 jets is 8.3 per year, more than double the number of fighter jets. F-15, which are deployed in the United States military. Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa Prefecture.

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