Fighter jet, Nellis F-16 collide in air

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An F-15 fighter jet crashed Monday after a midair collision with an F-16C Fighting Falcon from Nellis Air Force Base, military officials said.

The pilot of the F-15C ejected before the crash, and was taken to a military hospital, said Jennifer Anton, a spokeswoman at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks. The pilot did not have serious injuries, she said.

The jet from Nellis was part of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, one of two squadrons from the 57th Wing’s 57th Adversary Tactics Group, which portrays the enemy in combat training exercises, a Nellis spokesman said.

Nellis spokesman Capt. Justin McVay said the 64th Aggressor Squadron confirmed that six of its jets were deployed for Red Flag-Alaska, an air combat training exercise that ends Friday.

Anton said that the F-16C was damaged but landed safely and that the pilot was uninjured.

Justin Weaver, another Eielson spokesman, said the F-16’s wing appeared to have been clipped by the F-15C.

What caused the 11:05 a.m. AST accident was unclear, Anton said.

It occurred during a training exercise in a rural area about 90 miles east of Fairbanks in Alaska’s interior.

The National Weather Service in Fairbanks said conditions were mostly cloudy with a few scattered showers at the time of the collision.

The crash happened at the Pacific Alaska Range Complex, a 60,000-acre training ground.

The $27 million F-15C was from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The Alaska Air National Guard took the F-15C pilot to Bassett Army Hospital at Fort Wainwright, also near Fairbanks, said McHugh Pierre, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The Red Flag-Alaska training exercise includes more than 1,400 military members from the United States, Singapore and Australia.

In October 2003, the Air Force reactivated the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis with seven camouflaged F-16 Fighting Falcons. The 64th’s roots date to 1941 when it began as the 64th Pursuit Squadron in World War II.

McVay said the Red Flag-Alaska exercises are like the Red Flag exercises over the Nellis range in Nevada, where pilots sharpen their combat skills by flying at least 10 simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment.

“The training allows us to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures and improve interoperability,” he said in an e-mail Monday.

Review-Journal writer Keith Rogers contributed to this report.

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