Belgian Air Force F-16 destroyed by fire during maintenance – Collateral damage on second F-16

© David Van Bouwel

On 11 October around 14:10 (UTC +2), a Belgian Air Force F16 caught fire during maintenance works at Florennes Air Base. The fire completely destroyed that aircraft. The Belgian Air Force said a second F-16 received collateral damage.

On 12 October, received more information on the incident: a technician was working on an F-16 when he accidentally activated the six-barrels 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon of that F-16. The cannon was loaded and some bullets hit another F-16AM (FA-128). That aircraft had just been refuelled and was – together with another F-16 – being prepared for a (training) mission. Due to the bullets, the F-16AM exploded and damaged the other F-16.

Two technicians were injured after the blast, the Belgian Aviation Safety Directorate opened an investigation into the accident. The Belgian Air Force had 60 active F-16 aircraft remaining, including 48 on duty for NATO.



  1. Isn’t “cannon” usually spelled with two ‘n’, in English? (Contrairement au français…)

  2. And you can bet that’ll be coming out of that mechanic’s pay. And people wonder why a captain goes down with his ship ?

  3. This seems unlikely. Virtually all fighter aircraft with weapons systems have a “weight on wheels” signal that prevents the weapon systems from operating while the plane is on the ground. I have to believe there’s information missing from the reporting on this incident.

  4. The weight on wheels switch (WOW) disables many safety related things on the ground, like firing missiles, firing the gun, transmitting radar, etc. This switch can be manually overridden with a person by the wheel with a screw driver.

  5. In addition to the WOW safety interlock, which would have to be overridden, there should also be a safety pin (with flag) that the pilot or armourer would remove as the pilot performs his pre-flight walkround. Within the cockpit, the Master Armament control would have to be set to Live and the Gun would also have to be selected via the weapons selector (Gun, Missiles, Bombs etc). Also – why is an armed aircraft inside a hangar and electrically powered-up (other sites have pics with the F16 in question inside a hangar). There is a lot more to this story than has been divulged so far.

  6. During phase inspection, the cannon is removed from the aircraft.
    After re-installation, it’s standard practice to have it tested (dry run) while the aircraft is connected to external hydraulic pressure.
    With the aircraft on its jacks, WoW is not an issue.
    This is a common thing to have this tested, while the aircraft is still in the hangar.

    The only thing that raises questions here, is why in earth was that ammo drum loaded wih live ammo?!

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