Misawa F-16s stop dropping dummy bombs
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — F-16 fighter jets at this northern Japan base have stopped dropping dummy bombs after a 25-pound inert munition fell off a jet Wednesday night as it landed.
The incident was the second in less than a month in which a mock device failed to release during training, then later dropped on its own.
“We have temporarily discontinued dropping BDU-33 training munitions until we complete an investigation,” Col. Joel Malone, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander, said Friday.
Malone said the order came “at the direction” of 35th Fighter Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Sam Angelella and 5th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright.
At 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, during a routine training mission, an F-16 pilot with the 13th Fighter Squadron had an “indication of a hung bomb” over Draughon Range, Malone said — meaning the training device didn’t drop when the pilot tried to release it. The pilot unsuccessfully tried to drop it over the range portion in the Pacific Ocean, Malone said. He declared an emergency and, with a chase pilot, returned to Misawa Air Base to land with a “straight-in approach” that minimizes exposure to the ground, Malone said.
“The airplane came over the east end of the runway, landing to the west,” he said. “We believe the munition released on landing, probably when he touched down. The munition probably bounced along till it stopped about 3,500 feet from the approach end of the runway.”
The BDU-33, a nonexplosive device made of cast iron and steel, was recovered and normal operations were continued quickly, Malone said. No equipment was damaged and no people were injured.
The base shares a runway with adjacent Misawa Airport.
In November, a similar device fell off an F-16 aircraft assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron. Base officials said then they believed it dropped over the Pacific Ocean after it failed to release during a training run at Draughon Range.
Malone said both incidents are under investigation and did not want to speculate on the possible cause.
The munitions halt affects both the 13th and 14th fighter squadrons, the latter of which is preparing to deploy to Iraq in less than month.
But the temporary change in operations shouldn’t impact training that much, Malone said.
“We’ll continue training,” he said. “Training is optimized by being able to drop munitions and see where it lands and see that everything works as it’s supposed to … but it’s not critical to training.”
Malone said the investigation should take no more than two weeks.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.