On Wednesday, officials said an Air Force training accident that took place in New Mexico on Tuesday evening killed one person and injured one. The incident occurred when two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets fired air-to-surface weapons that struck and killed a civilian contractor and wounded an Air Force ground-control service member. The training accident occurred, according to authorities, on the Red Rio Range within the White Sands Missile Range Complex.
FOX News reported that ground-control party members are controllers responsible for providing guidance to military aircraft, which includes fighters attacking ground targets. The White Sands Missile Range complex is located in southern New Mexico near Holloman Air Force Base. The jets were using “unspecified munitions” during the training exercise.
On Tuesday night, when the fatal Air Force training accident occurred, reporters from FOX News were at the base, and they recorded video of F16 aircraft missiles being armed by crew members. It was not clear if any of the jets that were filmed by their crew were involved in the accident.
The Air Force member who was injured in the training accident, according to USA Today, was treated at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, “for unspecified injuries,” but he has since been released. The civilian contractor was also transported to the same hospital, where he “was pronounced dead at about 9 p.m.”
Officials stated the death of the civilian contractor and injuries the Air Force ground-control party member experienced happened “during an active-weapons range training exercise.” The training exercise “involved ground-control personnel and two Air Force F-16 fighter planes.”
A Holloman Air Force Base spokesman said that “the aircraft fired air-to-surface weapons, hitting the contractor and injuring an Air Force airman.” It has not yet been made clear if one or both of the jets fired on Tuesday night.
The Air Force training accident “is under investigation.” The identities of the man who was injured and the contractor who was killed have not yet been released, pending notification of next of kin, and the names of the two pilots of the F-16s have also not been made public. Neither of the two pilots were injured.
According to ABC News, “the Air Force said the service member who was injured was assigned to the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Bliss, Texas.” The exact type of munitions used by the F-16 jets during the training accident was not specified.
F-16 jets were first put into service in the late 1970s. They are versatile fighter jets that can be used to fire missiles, drop bombs, and shoot cannon shells. There are one seat and two seat versions of the F-16 jets.
Air Force officials have not yet released many further details about the training accident involving two F-16s on Tuesday night, in New Mexico that resulted in the death of a civilian contractor and in a ground-control party serviceman getting injured. The F-16 jets involved in the training accident were from the Holloman base, but they belong to the 54th Fighter Group, which is part of the 56th Fighter Wing that is headquartered in Glendale, Arizona, at the Luke Air Force Base.
By John Samuels
U.S. Air Force Photo Courtesy Airman 1st Class Randahl J. Jenson