UPDATED | A Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16AM fighting Falcon of the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) crashed in the North Sea near the Danish island of Rømø around 14:30 local time on Tuesday 27 October 2015. The pilot ejected OK and has been rescued by Danish military search-and-rescue helicopter.
The Danish Ministry of Defence says in a short statement they are currently collecting more information on the incident and officially do not know yet what caused the crash of the fighter jet from Skrydstrup Airbase. The male pilot is said to have ejected out of the aircraft in a “controlled” manner, after the pilot discovered a malfunction with the front landing gear. After circling around for an hour and in contact with air traffic control the fighter jock saw no other possibility than to ejectd. The pilot was fished out of the sea “immediately” by the SAR chopper and brought back to Skrydstrup Airbase.
The Danish Accident Investigation Board has already started its investigation in cooperation with the Danish armed forces.
Before today’s crash the RDAF had 17 F-16AM single-seaters and 13 F-16BM dual-seat multi-role fighters on strength. All operated out of Skrydstrup, which is the country’s only remaining combat air base.
LATEST UPDATE 5 OCTOBER 2014 (GERMAN AIR FORCE INTERCEPT) | Several air forces scrambled on Sunday 21 September to intercept a small but powerful Russian Air Force package cruising over the Baltic Sea, one of Sweden’s leading military experts, journalist Mikael Holmström, made public via his newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on 25 September 2014.
Two fast and heavy strategic Tu-22M bombers (NATO-name Backfire) escorted by a pair of Sukhoi Su-27 air-supiority fighters (NATO-name Flanker) had airbases all around the Baltic Sea on full alert.
Several sources confirmed that Finland directed at least a pair of McDonnell Douglas F-18C or D Hornets, normally based at Kuopio/Rissala, to the cruising Russian Air Force package. Sweden scrambled a pair of its SAAB JAS 39C Gripen jets from Ronneby Airbase near Karlskrona. Danish General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16s – with their home at Skrydstrup on the mainland – headed for the Russian bombers and escorts as well.
From Šiauliai in Lithuania NATO command launched at least two of the Portuguese F-16AMs based there as rotating Baltic Air Policing assets. It is unconfirmed if the Luftwaffe EF2000s at Laage in Germany reacted with their Eurofighter EF2000s, or that the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s or Polish Air Force MiG-29s from Malbork were scrambled. It is known that the Germans have huge issues with the availability of their EF2000s.
German Air Force
But on the same day the German Air Force at Ämari in Estonia did scramble a pair of its EF2000s to intercept two Russian Su-27s coming from the St. Petersburg area, which might have been the bomber escorts or a second flight of Russian Flankers. The German jets just made a quick circular flight clockwise around the Estonian capital of Tallinn intercepting the Russians while they were travelling westbound over the waters between Finland and the Baltics, according to Luftwaffe reports.
With the international community focusing on both the Russian-Ukrainian stand-off and the missing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, one almost forgets loads of other things happen in the world of aviation. Take the famous Red Flag exercises in the Nevada dessert. At AIRheads↑Fly we published a much viewed feature on edition 14-01, but the second Red Flag of the year went by largely unnoticed. Until now 🙂
Even the media units of the Belgian and Danish ministries of Defence hardly paid any attention to their men and women being deployed to literately the Vegas of aerial combat. Maybe they took the nickname of the host city a bit to seriously: What happens there, stays there. Only when Belgian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Aviator Gerard Van Caelenberge visited the operations at Nellis AFB, a little bit of news coverage followed but without any Belgian F-16s to show. From the Danish side, it was as quiet as it normally is from the Saudis who were also there this time.
It’s extraordinary to think that back in the early seventies, an average computer was the size of an average refrigerator. But that probably wasn’t what was going on in the mind of test pilot Phil Oestricher when he – albeit unintended – took the YF-16 to the air for the first time forty years ago, on 20 January 1974. It was the soon to be first large scale mass produced fighter jet flying with microchips and fly-by-wire, and boy did it almost end in disaster. Eventually of course, it came out a winner – and the flying proof of a digital, computerized future.
Oestricher and the people at General Dynamics must have watched in horror as the prototype YF-16, stuffed with micro computer technology that was basically unheard of in those days, accidentally got airborne during a fast taxi test at Edwards Air Force Base. What followed was an almost comical struggle between a pilot – wanting not to fly – and his aircraft wanting to fly. In the end, Oestricher (read his story here) decided to take the aircraft up. He landed back at Edwards immediately after, safely ending what later became known as ‘flight zero’. Two weeks later, he took the YF-16 up for the official ‘first’ flight.
That wobbly ‘flight zero’ in no way illustrates the phenomenal success the General Dynamics F-16 Fighter Falcon – or Electric Jet or Viper – became soon afterwards. As small as the aircraft is – 14.8 meters long and 9.8 meters wide – as big was and still is its commercial success. The USAF was of course the first user, but in ‘The Sale Of The Century’ the F-16 was also sold by the hundreds to Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. The deal was signed following the 1975 Paris Le Bourget airshow, where pilot Neil Anderson demonstrated the previously unseen manoeuverability of the YF-16.
Nowadays, 24 countries use the various further developed versions of the original YF-16. The two prototypes were followed by several pre-production aircraft, after which serial production started on three lines, which eventually became five lines in as many countries. The A/B versions were followed by the C/D versions. More recently E/F and I versions entered service. More obscure Fighting Falcons are the delta winged F-16XL and the General Electric J-79 equipped F-16/79. The US Navy’s (T)F-16N aggressor aircraft were also relatively short-lived.
More than 4,540 F-16s have been produced, mostly at the Lockheed Martin production line at Fort Worth. Apart from the four first European customers, Israel, Venezuela and Pakistan were among the early adopters as well, ordering aircraft in the early eighties. More recent customers include Chile, Morocco and Iraq. Lockheed Martin took over General Dynamics in 1993 and now has 48 aircraft remaining on order, according to a statement released on Thursday. Among the remaining orders are aircraft for Oman and Iraq. When asked, the company wouldn’t comment on any special activities relating to the Vipers’ 40th birthday.
Many Vipers have changed ownership already, with the US selling or leasing lots of of their surplus aircraft to other countries. Early model F-16A and B aircraft soon found their way to Israel, and later on similar aircraft were also delivered to Jordan. A small number of US F-16Cs went to Indonesia.
Belgium and the Netherlands are also in the business of selling Vipers abroad, customers being Jordan and Chile. Some F-16s are third hand already, as Portugal sold second hand Vipers to Romania last year.
In the pocket
The whine of either the Pratt and Whitney PW220 or General Electric F110 that equips the F-16 will be heard for many years to come, as Vipers are started up at airfields around the world to fill and patrol the skies. The computerized F-16 paved the way for many military and commercial airplanes, and also for many technological applications that are now standard in every household, and possibly even in the pocket of your jeans – if that’s where you keep your cellphone.
It’s extraordinary to think what an impact this little agile fighter has had. It sure didn’t look that way on 20 January 1974. Cheers!