Reports Suggest the Aircraft Could Not Lower Its Landing Gear, Crashed on Landing.
A USAF F-16CM Fighting Falcon has crashed at Shaw AFB near Sumter, South Carolina in the southeastern United States at approximately 23:30 local time. Images and video from the crash scene posted on Facebook showed smoke and flames coming from the base after sundown.
As of midnight, U.S. time, there have been no official reports on the condition of the single crewmember. A social media post attributed to the local WLTX.com news outlet by reporter J.R. Berry said the pilot had been hospitalized at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital, in Sumter, South Carolina. An official notification of the accident was posted on the Shaw Air Force Base Facebook page just after midnight on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
This latest crash continues a series of accidents during the past seven weeks for the U.S. Air Force that has included the loss of an F-35A Lightning II and an F-22A Raptor, both advanced, fifth generation aircraft, in addition to an F-15C Eagle and a C-130 Hercules.
Two unconfirmed sources suggested the accident may have been caused by an inability of the aircraft to extend its landing gear into the landing configuration. The unverified report said that the aircraft then “flew as low as possible” so the pilot could eject. The report, shared by the AirForce amn/nco/snco Facebook page, went on to read that the aircraft “crashed and flipped”. The unverified social media report said that another F-16 attempted to determine if the landing gear on the crash aircraft had extended correctly, but may not have been able to do so because of darkness at the time of the accident.
As with all aviation accidents the official cause of the accident will be released pending the outcome of an investigation.
Shaw Air Force Base is one of the largest USAF facilities in the U.S. and home to the 20th Fighter Wing of the 9th Air Force. The 20th Fighter Wing includes three F-16 squadrons. They are the 55th Squadron, the 77th Squadron and the 79th Squadron. There was no indication late Tuesday which of these squadrons the accident aircraft was from.
The F-16CM version reported to have crashed at Shaw AFB is optimized for ground attack and the suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) or “Wild Weasel” mission.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon, often referred to as the “Viper”, is a highly successful single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft built in a number of one and two-seat versions. The F-16 is in service with at least 25 nations. Nearly 5,000 F-16s have been built since it first flew in January 1974. The aircraft was first used in combat by the Israeli Air Force and has since seen combat around the world with several air forces.
Shaw Air Force Base has confirmed that the pilot of the U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon that crashed late Tuesday night has died.