Japan demands explanation after US fighter Jet drops fuel tanks
On Tuesday, Japan’s defense ministry demanded explanations from the US military after a fighter jet experiencing an engine fire dropped two fuel tanks into a lake in the country’s north.
The incident caused no injuries is the latest in a string of accidents involving the US military that have prompted concern from Japanese officials and renewed criticism of the US military presence in the country.
Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a press conference, “We are asking the US side to explain what happened and its cause, and we fully demand the US side take prevention measures”. Onodera said, “The US military has told us that it discarded two exterior tanks on Lake Ogawara just north of Misawa Air Base and landed back at Misawa Air Base”.
Onodera further added, the F16 took off from the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan’s Aomori region early on Tuesday morning and immediately experienced an engine fire.
The US military in a statement confirmed that one of its F-16 had been forced to ‘jettison two external fuel tanks into an unpopulated area’ after an engine fire broke out. Colonel R. Scott Jobe, 35th Fighting Wing Commander said, “The safety of our airmen and our Japanese neighbors is our number one priority during flying operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the root cause of this incident”.
The case follows a long string of accidents involving US military aircraft, for which US Secretary of Defense James Mattis apologized to Onodera last month. In January alone the US military helicopters made at least three emergency landings in the southern region of Okinawa.
In December last year, a window from a US military helicopter fell onto a school ground in Okinawa, and in October, a US military helicopter burst into flames after landing in an empty field on Okinawa.