USFK apologizes for release of chaff during training mission
March 31, 2006
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea officials apologized Wednesday for a Monday night incident in which a U.S. Air Force cargo plane dispensed nontoxic chaff during a training mission.
The chaff consisted of silicone, aluminum and vegetable fat, according to a USFK news release.
“Chaff is commonly used by aircraft all over the world to defend against missiles and is frequently used in training,” the release said. The substance is designed to confuse target radar on missiles aimed at planes.
The MC-130 dispensed the chaff while on a routine night-training mission in the vicinity of Yeongyang in Gyeongsang Province.
“USFK bioenvironmental and public health officials analyzed the materials contained in the chaff and found they pose no threat to the environment or to human health,” according to the release.
The incident worried local farmers, according to local resident Kim Dong-wun.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Kim said other villagers told him the chaff “shot out from the plane like a streak of smoke and fell like snow.”
When he got to the village, he said, chaff was strewn everywhere, including on top of homes, rice and vegetable fields and on the mountains.
Kim said residents were “startled and anxious” about the unknown material and worried it was harmful.
When he couldn’t get the chaff off of his clothing, he said, he threw away the clothes he was wearing.
Kim said South Korean air force officials told residents the chaff isn’t toxic and won’t cause harm.
Still, Kim said, “I really hope nothing bad like side effects happen afterward in our health and farming.”
The USFK news release stated that materials found in the chaff are “already prevalent in the environment.”
“USFK deeply regrets this incident and any problems it has caused to the local community,” according to the release. “USFK is still investigating the causes and exact circumstances surrounding this incident.”