UPDATE 27 June | The F-16 that crashed and ingnited a gas pipe line near Douglas Municipal Airport on 24 June 2015 during a evening training mission was in fact an Iraqi Air Force jet, piloted by Brig. Gen. Rasid Mohammed Sadiq Hasan. The Iraqi ministry of Defense in Baghdad and the US Air Force on Friday 26 June confirmed the pilot did not survive the crash.
Emergency services responded around 20:00 local time (03:00 UTC/GMT) to a call from a woman who said “a plane is burning in my front yard”, a police spokesperson said. It is unknown at this point if the pilot tried to eject before impact. Fire crews had difficulty reaching the site because of the gas pipe lines in the area and the bush fire ignited by the crash.
The crash is a shock to the Iraqi Air Force crews training with the Arizona ANG’s 162nd Wing since December 2014 on their future front-line multi-role fighter. With fellow countrymen back home in a fierce battle against the so-called Islamic State forces (ISIS / ISIL), Iraq is very much in need of the 36 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52s it has ordered.
Although many policy makers and political watchers doubt that the Iraqi Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon will ever fly in the skies in its destined homeland, because of concerns about them falling into ISIS hands, the first pair of two-seat F-16Ds landed at Tucson International Airport in Arizona to start flight training on 16 December 2014. Apart from the Iraqi crews, fighter pilots of the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and Japan are a common sight on the training base that is 100 miles (160 km) from the crash site.
Before the crash the Iraqi Air Force continent at Tuscon was estimated to have had eight operational F-16s, judging the planned delivery schedule. First delivery flights to Iraq are scheduled for later this year, after much initial delays and hesitation by the US government.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Marcel Burger & Elmer van Hest
Featured image: One of the first two Iraqi Air Force F-16Ds at Tuscon International Airport on 16 December 2014 (Image © Jordan Castelan / USAF)