There’s nothing to prevent the guns on an F-16 from firing when the plane is on the ground, something a maintenance worker confirmed earlier this week when he pulled the trigger on a F-16’s 20mm Vulcan cannon. The worker gunfire destroyed another F-16 on the runway and badly damaged another plane.
The incident occurred at Belgium’s Florennes Air Force. “A worker apparently opened fire across the flight line while performing maintenance on Oct. 11,” Task and Purpose writes. “The F-16 that was racked by cannon fire quickly caught fire and exploded, since it was loaded with fuel and being readied for an afternoon sortie.”
“You can’t help thinking of what a disaster this could have been,” Col. Didier Polome, the base commander, told a Belgian television news station.
“The damage caused by the accident would amount to tens of millions of Euro and flight operations from the air base are suspended temporarily to allow both to carry out the investigations,” AVIO writes, “and to secure the whole area near the explosion point avoiding any leakage of toxic substances.”
The Belgian Air Force was quick to acknowledge the obvious, though their initial statements reported that a fire broke out on the base during maintenance work. They talked about the loss of the planes, and the ensuing damage, but were hesitant to discuss the cause of the fire.
There were people near the site where the gunfire originated. Two reportedly suffered hearing damage. No one, though, was in the line of fire, and no firefighters were injured responding to the blaze.
It remains unclear just how the accident happened. Technicians are briefed on the safety precautions that keep ground crews safe. As such, some are speculating that it must have been an intentional act of sabotage.
The images that accompany this article are from Srcamble, a Dutch aviation group.