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Air Force releases findings on 2019 Misawa F-16CM mishap

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --

Pacific Air Forces released the results of its investigation of an F-16CM mishap assigned to Misawa Air Base, Japan, Nov. 6, 2019. On Nov. 6, 2019, at 6:37 p.m. local time, an F-16CM aircraft, assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron, released an inert GBU-12 bomb that impacted the ground outside of Draughon Range, a government-owned bombing range 15 miles north of MAB.

There were no deaths or injuries, and there was no damage to any private structures. The Accident Investigation Board President determined, by clear and convincing evidence, that the cause of the mishap was pilot error. He concluded that a failure of communication during an assisted weapons deployment procedure caused the mishap pilot to fail to confirm that the Sensor Point of Interest he had selected was the target to which the other formation was guiding the weapon. Substantially contributing factors include channelized attention, changing weather, and targeting technical error.

Immediately after the incident, the 35th Fighter Wing stopped employing munitions at the range while a safety investigation and accident investigation board investigated the accident. The aircraft was immediately impounded, and the pilot was grounded. The pilot was also disqualified after this mishap. He has since been retrained on various aspects of weapon employment and was required to brief the other on-base pilots on the sequence of events leading up to the mishap to prevent a similar incident.

The pilot training program maintained at the 35th Fighter Wing was investigated and found to be sufficient. The mission was found to have been planned and authorized with the proper level of squadron supervision. The governing guidance and regulations at the range were also found to be sufficient, but to reduce the risk of off-range munitions mishaps in the future, the 35th Fighter Wing commander directed a revision of the range munition employment regulation. The range munition employment regulation was revised to only authorize certain means of employment in order to reduce future risk.

Draughon Range is the premier range in the Western Pacific, housing the most technically advanced Electronic Attack Range System and the only air-to-ground range in Japan. The training that takes place at Draughon Range is critical to the readiness of the U.S. armed forces units within Indo-Pacific Command and our Japan Self-Defense partners. We appreciate the continued support of the local community as U.S. and Japanese forces continue to sharpen their training in support of the defense of Japan.

The AIB, comprised of subject matter experts from aviation backgrounds, conducted a thorough review of all available evidence to determine the facts surrounding the mishap to discover the cause and contributing factors. The U.S. Air Force is committed to ensuring the safety of training operations and we appreciate the support of the Japanese public as we train to ensure their security.

Click here to read the full version of the investigation report.