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F-16 knocked out by wild boar

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The Pakistani defense minister has acknowledged that the air force lost an American-built F-16 fighter - regarded by many Pakistanis as an invincible aircraft -- to a wild pig.

The $18 million, high-tech fighter slammed into a wild boar as it raced down a runway for takeoff on a nighttime operational mission last December, Defense Minister Rana Naeem Mehmud Khan said during questioning before parliament Monday.

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The nose gear broke when it struck the pig as it crossed the runway, and the F-16 caught fire and was destroyed, the defense minister said.

The mishap occurred Dec. 17 at Sargodha Air Base, about 125 miles south of the capital.

It was the first F-16 in Pakistan's air force to be lost.

A spokesman for General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas, the maker of the jet fighter, said an F-16 sold to the Pakistani air force costs about $18 million.

The defense minister said a wall 6 feet high has been constructed around the air base to isolate it from wild boars and prevent accidents in the future.

A second F-16, a symbol of prestige in Pakistan, was shot down April 29 along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan during a chase of an Afghan aircraft.

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The government has stated a plane was downed but has not confirmed it was an F-16.

Diplomats in Islamabad report that one version of the incident is that the jet was shot down accidentally by another F-16 in Pakistan's air force. But the Soviet-backed Afghan government also has claimed responsibility for downing the F-16.

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