An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Jan.19, 2024.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Jan.19, 2024. (Jovan Banks/U.S. Air Force)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An F-16 Fighting Falcon jettisoned two external fuel tanks Thursday during an in-flight emergency over the Yellow Sea, according to the 8th Fighter Wing.

The F-16 assigned to the wing at Kunsan Air Base, about 115 miles south of Seoul, was on a routine flight when the pilot dropped the tanks around 10 a.m., 7th Air Force spokeswoman Rachel Buitrago told Stars and Stripes in an emailed statement Thursday.

The pilot landed safely at Kunsan; search and recovery operations for the tanks are underway, according to the statement.

No further details were immediately available.

Pilots in the Indo-Pacific have jettisoned fuel tanks previously, most recently over Japan.

In December 2021, two fuel tanks jettisoned by an F-16 pilot during an emergency over northeastern Japan fell onto Fukaura, a coastal town about 100 miles west of Misawa Air Base, the jet’s home field. No one was injured and the pilot landed safely at Aomori Airport, but one of the tanks came down near homes and the town hall.

On March 24, 2017, an F-16 experienced an in-flight emergency and dropped its auxiliary fuel tanks into a lake two miles west of Kunsan.

Recovery of the 600-gallon fuel tanks were halted “due to the low likelihood” of finding them, a 7th Air Force spokeswoman said at the time.

Thursday’s incident happened about three weeks after another Kunsan-based F-16 experienced an emergency over the Yellow Sea. That jet went down in the sea Jan. 31. The pilot ejected and was safely recovered less than an hour later.

Yet another Kunsan F-16 crashed in the Yellow Sea on Dec. 11. Seven months earlier, a Fighting Falcon from the base went down on a farmer’s field near Osan Air Base, roughly 30 miles south of Seoul.

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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