US Fighter Jet Missing in Adriatic
Search and rescue effort continues for missing aircraft.
A search in underway for a US F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet that has gone missing on a training flight off the coast of Italy, the ANSA news agency reported.
The headquarters of the US 31st Fighter Wing, stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy, lost contact with the aircraft at about 20:00 local time [21:00 GMT] on Monday, shortly after the pilot reported a problem, ANSA said.
The US aircraft from Aviano as well as units of Italian Coast Guard and Air Force are involved in the search-and-rescue effort off the coast of the Ravenna province in the northwestern part of the Adriatic Sea.
The plane did not carry weaponry on board during the mission, according to a brief statement by the US Air Force issued on Monday.
U.S. military officials are coordinating search and rescue efforts with Italian military and civilian teams following the loss of communication with an Aviano F-16 fighter jet Monday evening.
The aircraft, assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, was performing a training mission over the Adriatic Sea when the base lost contact with the pilot at approximately 8 p.m. Soon after, Italian aircraft and ships were dispatched to the missing jet's last known location.
While the aircraft has not yet been found, search teams are working under the assumption that the aircraft crashed in the Adriatic.
"The search for and rescue of our pilot is our top priority," said Col. David W. Walker, the 31st Operations Group commander. "We want to assure the family and friends of the lost Airman that we are doing everything we can for this effort."
Experts believe that the aircraft has crashed in the Adriatic but the pilot could have survived.
The average age of the F-16s, which are considered the workhorse of the US fighter fleet, is 22 to 24 years.
Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976.
Source: ROME, (RIA Novosti) News & AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) - 29 January 2013
Photo: The U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Fighter Aircraft (Photo by files)