An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2023.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2023. (Samuel Earick/U.S. Air Force)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The U.S. and South Korean militaries are working together to recover an F-16 Fighting Falcon that crashed this week in the Yellow Sea, according to the U.S. 7th Air Force.

The command is coordinating with the Air Force Safety Center and South Korean navy to retrieve the F-16 lost from the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, 7th Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Rachel Buitrago told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday.

The fighter was over the Yellow Sea on a training operation when it experienced an in-flight emergency at 8:43 a.m. Monday.

The pilot ejected and was rescued at sea by the South Korean navy and coast guard. A South Korean air force helicopter airlifted the pilot, who was awake and in stable condition, to Kunsan, Buitrago said.

Kunsan, about 115 miles south of Seoul, is home to the 8th Fighter Wing, which operates roughly 30 F-16s.

Once the aircraft is recovered, it will be scrutinized to determine the cause of the crash, Buitrago said. The exact location of the recovery efforts in the Yellow Sea will not be disclosed due to operational security, she added.

The flying status of F-16s on the Korean Peninsula “has not changed,” Buitrago said. However, she added that the wing’s commander, Col. Matthew Gaetke, ordered a two-day pause on flights “to focus on the recovery of the pilot and aircraft and in preparation for the safety investigation.”

“We want to extend our sincere thanks to the [South Korean] coast guard, navy and air force for all of their assistance in the rescue and recovery efforts,” Buitrago said.

South Korea’s military will continue providing support to the U.S. for the incident, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Jeon Ha Gyu said Monday during a press conference in Seoul.

The crash comes about seven months after an F-16 from the 8th Fighter Wing crashed into a farmer’s field about 10 miles from Osan Air Base.

That pilot suffered non-life-threatening injuries and F-16 flights in South Korea were paused for three days, the wing said at the time.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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