Three F-16 jet fighters crash in West Germany

KARLSRUHE, West Germany -- Three U.S. F-16 jet fighters crashed in West Germany Wednesday, killing one pilot dead and injuring another, authorities said.

Two of the F-16 Fighting Falcons collided and crashed 30 miles west of Frankfurt, a U.S. Air Force spokesman said. An Interior Ministry spokesman in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said one of the pilots was killed and another was injured.


In a separate incident, another of the single-engine aircraft crashed in a forest near Baden-Baden, 50 miles east of Stuttgart, and the pilot ejected safely, a U.S. spokesman said.

The accidents raised the number of U.S. F-16 crashes to 21 since the planes were introduced in Europe in December 1981. Fourteen of the crashes were in West Germany. The F-16s are manufactured by General Dynamics.

Nineteen military aircraft belonging to the United States, Britain, France and West Germany have crashed in West Germany over the past three months.

The plane that crashed east of Stuttgart was taking part in an eight-day, nine-nation air maneuver that began June 21. It belonged to the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing assigned to Soangdahlem Air Base.

A witness told a Baden-Baden radio station that the plane was taking part in a simulated dog fight about 500 feet off the ground when it crashed.


The pilot was taken to a U.S. Air Force hospital for observation.

The other two F-16s that crashed near Mainz, 30 miles west of Frankfurt, were not taking part in the maneuver, which was held to test the cooperation on the ground and air of the various air forces, a spokesman said.

They belonged to the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing of Hahn Air Base.

After the crash of a U.S. F-16 on April 18 West German Defense Minister Manfred Woerner asked the U.S. Air Force to halt F-16 flights temporarily if they had technical faults.

He made the request because of growing German criticism of large-scale, low-level flying exercises over West Germany.

In response to the criticism, Gen. William L. Kirk, the commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe, said the F-16 is the safest single engine fighter aircraft in U.S. Air Force history.

'If I had any doubt as to the reliability of the F-16s or if subsequent investigation reveals problems that would warrant grounding them you can rest assured I would do so to ensure the safety of our air crews and the people in the Federal Republic of Germany.'

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