Two aircraft technicians were injured when an F-16 fighter plane exploded at the airbase at Florennes in Namur province on Thursday. Neither man was seriously hurt. The incident took place as the aircraft stood parked at the end of the runway. Two other aircrafts standing nearby were slightly damaged. The first plane burned out completely, a spokesperson for the defence ministry said.
The two technicians suffered hearing damage. Both were treated on the base itself.
The cause of the explosion is being investigated, said spokesperson Laurence Mortier, but foul play is being ruled out. The federal prosecutor’s office has visited the site of the explosion.
The base at Florennes is home to the Second Tactical Wing, with more than 20 F-16s divided into two squadrons. Four of the planes are currently deployed in Lithuania as part of Nato’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
The F-16 itself is an ageing aircraft, dating from 1982 to 1991, whose replacement is currently hotly debated. Replacement of the 54 aircrafts has been budgeted at €3. billion.
The replacement debate, meanwhile, received a blow this week when all US F-35 fighters – a possible replacement for the F-16 – were grounded for inspection of fuel lines, following a crash in South Carolina two weeks ago during an exercise. The aircraft was destined for the US Marine Corps.
The inspection, which affects all F-35s worldwide – the plane is also used by the air forces of Israel, the UK, Italy and Norway – was expected to take 24 to 48 hours.