A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon was severely damaged during a live-fire training mission at Vliehors Shooting Range in the Netherlands, earlier this year, reported The Military Times.
Dutch State media released a photo of the damaged aircraft, showing at least one round ripping through the plane’s exterior skin. The fighter jet reportedly had engine damage from the debris. Although details behind the incident have been kept secret, Dutch media outlets have described the mishap as a case of the “plane shooting itself.”
The F-16’s armament includes a General Electric M61A1 Vulcan, a 6-barrel 20mm cannon. It fires standard M50 ammunition at 6,000 rounds per minute.
The reported muzzle velocity of the M61A1 Vulcan is approximately 3,450 feet per second, while the maximum speed of the F-16 is 1,500 mph or 2,200 feet per second. The Aviationist said, “that makes the likelihood of an F-16 actually catching its own bullets in flight largely impossible.” Rather it was a case of ricocheting bullets.
Nevertheless, “this is a serious incident,” Wim Bagerbos, inspector general at the Netherlands Department of Defense, told Dutch media, adding that “we, therefore, want to fully investigate what happened and how we would be able to avoid this in future.”
Some aviation blogs are comparing the Dutch incident to a 1965 incident when a Grumman F-11 Tiger was damaged when it started a 20 degrees nose-down dive firing 20mm cannons, then collided with the rounds in midflight, and shortly after crashed.
The American aerospace industry has entered into a crisis as of late. Boeing, for instance, was slammed with a new lawsuit Wednseday, as investors accused the company of defrauding shareholders by covering up safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before the two deadly crashes.
On Tuesday, a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II vanished off the radar. Japan’s defense ministry announced Wednesday that a U.S. guided-missile destroyer recovered parts of the aircraft in the Pacific Ocean near Misawa airbase.
Dutch media said the investigation into the incident “is now in full swing.” It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, due to limited information released by authorities, but it could be likely that a rare event occurred where the plane shot itself – not seen in over 5 decades.