F-16's Engine Catches Fire Over Japan; No Injuries Reported

F-16 Fighting Falcons line the runway during an elephant walk at Misawa Air Base, Japan, on Sept. 16, 2017. Deana Heitzman /Air Force
F-16 Fighting Falcons line the runway during an elephant walk at Misawa Air Base, Japan, on Sept. 16, 2017. Deana Heitzman/Air Force

Japan's defense ministry demanded explanations Tuesday from the U.S. military after a fighter jet experiencing an engine fire dropped two fuel tanks into a lake in the country's north.

The incident, which caused no injuries, is the latest in a string of accidents involving the U.S. military that have prompted concern from Japanese officials and renewed criticism of the U.S. military presence in the country.

"We are asking the U.S. side to explain what happened and its cause, and we fully demand the U.S. side take prevention measures," Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a press conference.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon took off from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan's Aomori region early Tuesday morning and immediately experienced an engine fire, Onodera said.

"The U.S. 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 said.

In a statement, the U.S. military confirmed that one of its F-16s had been forced to "jettison two external fuel tanks into an unpopulated area" after an engine fire broke out.

"The safety of our airmen and our Japanese neighbours is our number one priority during flying operations," said Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighting Wing commander.

"We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the root cause of this incident," he said.

The case follows a string of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, for which U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis apologized to Onodera last month.

U.S. military helicopters made at least three emergency landings in the southern region of Okinawa in January alone.

In December, a window from a U.S. military helicopter fell onto a school ground in Okinawa, and in October a U.S. military helicopter burst into flames after landing in an empty field on Okinawa.

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