Oct 20, 2018, 12:18 PM ET

F-16 accidentally blown up by Belgian Air Force mechanic

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When it was over, an F-16 lay burnt to a crisp on a tarmac in Belgium.

The pictures tell the story: Mechanics at an Air Force base in Florenne were working on a nearby F-16 last Thursday and accidentally triggered that jet's cannon, which fired at the other plane.

Those rounds struck the recently fueled F-16, which exploded into a fireball. A source told the Belgian broadcaster VRT that one of the mechanics had accidentally fired rounds from the jet's 20-millimeter multi-barrel cannon.

PHOTO: A Belgian Air Force F-16 was destroyed on October 11 after a mechanic working on another F-16 accidentally fired a cannon at it.Tony Delvita/Twitter
A Belgian Air Force F-16 was destroyed on October 11 after a mechanic working on another F-16 accidentally fired a cannon at it.

PHOTO: A Belgian Air Force F-16 is seen in flames after being accidentally struck by cannon fire from another nearby F-16.Tony Delvita/Twitter
A Belgian Air Force F-16 is seen in flames after being accidentally struck by cannon fire from another nearby F-16.

The Belgian Air Force said another F-16 also suffered collateral damage from the rounds.

The two mechanics involved in the incident were treated at the scene for potential hearing loss.

PHOTO: A cloud of smoke at Florennes Air Base in Belgium after the Belgian Air Force F-16 was accidentally struck by cannon fire by another F-16 on the tarmac.Tony Delvita/Twitter
A cloud of smoke at Florennes Air Base in Belgium after the Belgian Air Force F-16 was accidentally struck by cannon fire by another F-16 on the tarmac.

"You can't help thinking of what a disaster this could have been," Col. Didier Polome told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

The Belgian Air Force said the bizarre incident is being investigated by Belgium's Air Safety Directorate.

ABC News' Fergal Gallagher contributed to this story.

News - F-16 accidentally blown up by Belgian Air Force mechanic

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  • Krimson

    How do you say "Hey Bubba! Watch this!" in Belgium???

  • Thomas

    Aircraft powered up and the weapon locks were not installed?

    I foresee a flight crew going through some remedial training

  • Whtwulf

    You don't just "trigger" a gun on a modern plane. Someone had to have disengaged the safeties on a loaded weapon. This is against every SoP that I remember from my time in the Navy.

    Something smells rotten in this story.

  • Tommy Wo

    Someone isn't getting their allowance this week.

  • Robert Popov

    I hope they bought the extended warranty

  • anastasiabeaverhousen

    There's a joke here somewhere
    about a Belgian mechanic ;)

  • Mookie T. Cat

    What a memorable last day at work! A parting shot, so to speak...

  • mrphilbert

    But dad. You promised me an f-35!

  • mrphilbert

    I don’t know what happened doctor. I was just checking my rifle to see if it was loaded. When I was looking down the barrel and holding the rifle with my feet, it must have gone off on its own.

  • virgillionhere

    Reminds me of the airline commercial with the line "want to get away" when people have awkward moments.

  • Laurance Brown

    Big problem here!
    How was the system able to activate ON THE GROUND? There is a safety switch located on the landing gears that automatically, electronically disables the entire weapons system when the landing gears come down during landing, UNLESS it is manually by-passed by ground crew. This has been required by the manufacturer during construction for decades.
    Even back then (1968), the safety switch was required on ALL military aircraft with a weapons system. I had to use this switch many, many times while working on our aircraft's weapons systems. The very 1st thing required is to inspect the weapon to ensure it isn't loaded. Then and only then do you go to the safety switch and inspect it for proper operation. Then and only then, do you go into the cockpit and turn on the MASTER weapons power (electronic) switch to power up/turn on the weapons system. THEN the only way a weapon can be fired is to SELECT the individual weapon, IN the cockpit and hit the proper firing switch/button 'usually' located on the control stick.
    This reply post of being made by a retired Aviation Ordnance man 2nd class (E5) 1968-1974.
    Sorry about the long post, but couldn't condense it much more and be properly understood.

  • pbgd

    So much for our NATO allies.

  • Bill Exley

    Usually one takes the bullets out of a gun before doing maintenance on it.

  • TexWho

    My guess is that the mechanic's next performance review is not going to go well.

  • Scanlan

    That is an extremely expensive mistake. 😲

  • George286

    Oops. ha ha ha! Since no one was hurt so stupid and costly it's funny.

  • Davey Jones

    um. Hmm. Trying to think of something to say on this one. Nope . Got nothin.

  • Roger

    The mechanic is 1/5fth on the way to being an ace

  • Sean Wilson

    So, need to clean up this seat, this altimeter, and ... wow, a nice red button! Looks pretty filthy from not being used in a long time, let's clean it too! Now, I hope the guy is not allowed to clean around nuclear missiles :-)

  • OceanwalkSurfer

    4 more and he's an ace?

  • Smedley D Butler

    Oh my, it will take a long time on an aircraft mechanics pay to pay for that F-16 Viper.

  • SarcasTex

    Who knew that Homer Simpson was a Belgian? He certainly doesn't have an accent.

  • OceanwalkSurfer

    Larry and Curly will recover. Fortunately, Moe was taking the day off.

  • Rob

    See the red button? NEVER push the red button. This one?

  • John Smith

    What an imbecile! I was a jet engine mechanic on the F16 in 81 to 82. The mechanic had to purposely shoot that cannon.

    Next time line all of them up one behind the other so you take out the entire squadron!

  • helicohunter

    They'll be taking that out of his pay for the next 5,000 years.

  • P'Thizikil

    Whose idea was it to connect those lugnuts to the cannon in the first place?

  • khill9702

    A little duct tape and some elbow grease and she will be as good as new...

  • TriggerWarning

    Huh, Belgian John McCain.

  • Dicazi

    Why was the plane carrying live ammo while it was being worked on?! Lucky it was just a plane that was hit and not a hangar or other occupied structure.

  • Buster

    In a related story, the US president shot himself in the foot, yet again, today.

  • Tom Adams

    A good way of getting rid of an F-16.

  • Chuck Heston

    Mechanics names: Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

  • Sarah Levine

    Not sure why I am laughing but is the mechanic now a fighter ace? I mean he has more kills than most pilots get nowadays in an entire career.

  • Joshua

    That’s why Europe needs the US for protection.

  • David

    I used to worry that I'd accidentally fire the minigun in the nose of the A-37's that I would arm/dearm at the end of the runway. Back in Bien Hoa. I didn't, but my crewmate did. sigh.

  • BassPlyr73 Again

    No one was hurt, so....LMAO

  • Francis Dollarhyde

    The M61 Vulcan is a very effective weapon. How about next time using it on the enemy?

  • AG99

    It probably wasn't supposed to, but this article made me laugh. Glad no one was killed.

  • unusual

    Oops. Rule #1 in the Mechanics Handbook: Remove all ammo before proceeding.

  • JLS1950

    Iron Eagle they ain't!

  • Indie6050

    What is even scarier, research " 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident". Even though the weapons are not supposed to go off in case of a crash, there still is the "broken arrow" scenario.

  • Indie6050

    Ok..... I was in the AF like decades ago. And I do not remember them working on a aircraft with live rounds in the aircraft, etc... Any modern day mechanics out there have any comments on this one ?

  • snake

    I see a poor performance review in the near future for these mechanics. If 2 F16s were destroyed or badly damaged that's $60 million gone up in smoke plus clean up costs. I hope there hearing wasn't lost in the explosion.

  • TexasVulcan

    Oops. Sorry. I was eating a Milky Way...

  • Reply

    Some of us blew up a riding mower one time, running it on alcohol and starting fluid. But to bake an F-16? Wow.

  • Jiba

    The jet's cannon works well

  • Mike Kennedy

    Oh, that's gonna leave a mark. Sheesh, squeezing the gun button on the plane's control stick, what a dummy. Sounds like something you would see in a comedy movie like The Three Stooges. Several million dollars up in smoke.

  • grintch

    Refugee mechanics?