A Hellenic Air Force F-16D (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Major Greek F-16 crash during TLP exercise

UPDATED 31 JANUARY 2015 | In a major incident at Los Llanos/Albacete airbase in Spain, a Hellenic Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16D crashed on Monday 26 January while taking part in NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program (TLP). The crashing airplane hit aircraft that were parked on the platform, with other personnel working there. The two F-16 crew members are confirmed dead, while another eight people died on the ground, with 29 people reported wounded of which one died later in the hospital. Pictures of the aftermath are here and here.

Check here for our latest update on the Albacete crash.

The accident happened around 15:30 local time, apparently right after the F-16D took off. Eye-witnesses reported a big explosion and fire. The Spanish Ministry of Defence later confirmed the jet lost power during take-off, its crew was unable to lift the aircraft and steer it away from parked planes on the platform.

The Spanish, Greek and French governments confirmed 11 fatalities, the two Greek pilots plus nine French military personnel on the ground (three male officers, one female officer and five male non-commissioned officers). Of the 29 wounded 11 are French, 10 are Italian and 8 (minor injuries) Americans. Five French and one Italian are in pretty bad shape. About 750 people of seven nations have been deployed to Albacete for the TLP 2015-1, according to Spanish sources. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday evening the tragedy ‘affects the whole NATO family.’

Aircraft on the ground affected or even destroyed by crash are reported as French Mirage 2000Ds and Alpha Jets, with the wreckage of the latter clearly visible on various pictures.  An image appeared on Tuesday, showing burn marks on an Italian AMX. Other Images also show a Lakenheath-based US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, a German Tornado, two Eurofighter Typhoons and several AV-8B Harriers on base as well. The USAF has confirmed one of their Strike Eagles to be damaged, a second “too close to the crash site to determine if it has been damaged”. The third USAFE Strike Eagle returned to its homebase RAF Lakenheath alone, on 30 January 2015, with most of the US personnel deployed for the TLP.

Spanish RTVE was quick with providing video footage taken from a safe distance (see below), and others published images or video through social media channels (second below).

The Tactical Leadership Program is an intensive military flying exercise that takes places several times a year. Its purpose is to teach pilots how to lead multi-aircraft and multi-national aircraft packages in combat missions. The history of the exercise goes all the way back to the Cold War. In the eighties and nineties, TLP took place over north western Europe, with aircraft operating out of Jever in Germany or Florennes in Belgium. The exercise was moved to Spain in 2009 because of better availability of airspace.

The crashed F-16D (nr. 084) belonged to 341 Mira, a Greek F-16 squadron based at Nea Anchialos airbase. Together with other participating aircraft, the Greeks arrived in Albacete last week to start the exercise.

List of participants TLP 2015-1

3 Lockheed Martin F-16C plus the 1 F-16D that crashed, Hellenic Air Force (341 Mira from Almiros/Nea Anchialos)
4 Eurofighter EF2000s, Spanish Air Force (ALA 11 from Morón)
2 Dassault Rafales, French Air Force (EC 01.091 from BA113 Saint Dizier)
2 Dassault Mirage 2000Ds, French Air Force (ETD 02.007 from BA133 Nancy/Ochey)
2 Mirage 2000-5, French Air Force (EC 01.002 from BA116 Luxeuil/St.Sauveur)
5 McDonnell Douglas AV-8B+, Italian Naval Aviation (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati from Grottaglie/Taranto)
3 Boeing (McDonnel Douglas) F-15E Strike Eagle, 492nd Fighter Squadron, US Air Force in Europe (from RAF Lakenheath)
2 Dornier / Dassault Alpha Jets, French Air Force (EE 02.002 from BA120 Cazaux)
2 AMX, Italian Air Force (132° Gruppo from Istrana)
4 Panavia Tornado IDSs, German Air Force (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 from Büchel)
2 British Aerospace Hawk, Royal Air Force (No. 100 Squadron from RAF Leeming)

According to the Spanish ministry of Defense, damage to other aircraft is being assessed.

Over the last decade, Albacete based aircraft were involved in two other deadly incidents in the area of or near the base. On 20 January 2009 three crew members died when two fighter jets collided in mid-air during combat training. On 4 May 2004 a single pilot died as he crashed on the way home after a refuelling mission.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Greek two seat F-16D , similar to the one that crashed today in Albacete, (Image © Elmer van Hest)