Defense

Wisconsin Air National Guard pilot missing after F-16 crash

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The Wisconsin Air National Guard on Wednesday was searching for a pilot whose F-16 fighter jet crashed the night before in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, crashed while on a routine training mission around 8 p.m. local time in Delta County, Mich., according to a statement from the base.

“The 115th Fighter Wing participated in a coordinated search effort with local emergency responders, the U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies overnight. Search and rescue efforts on the ground, in the air, and in the water continue,” authorities said in a statement Wednesday morning.

The incident is under investigation and the pilot’s status is still unknown.

The crash site was initially secured by local emergency responders. Military personnel and safety and security personnel from the 115th Fighter Wing are now on site to help secure the area, officials said.

“We are a close knit family and when an incident like this occurs, every member in our organization feels it,” 115th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bart Van Roo said in a statement. “The safety of our pilot along with search and rescue efforts are our top priority, and we will continue to pray for the pilot’s safe return.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) also released a statement Wednesday, saying he and his wife’s “hearts go out to the pilot’s family as well as the members of the 115th Fighter Wing as they continue working to bring the pilot home.”

The accident marks the third F-16 crash this year. In June, 1st Lt. David Schmitz, 32, was killed at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Another pilot was injured in a July crash at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. when he ejected before his aircraft crashed.

The U.S. military has struggled to prevent similar incidents over the past decade, with more than 6,000 military aviation accidents leading to 224 pilot or aircrew deaths since 2013, according to a congressionally commissioned report released last week.

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