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- Writer: Wassana Nanuam
- Position: Reporter
The wreckage of an F16 fighter lies in a forested area in Chaiyaphum province. Two Royal Thai Air Force F16s taking part in the Cobra Gold 2011 exercise crashed into the forest near Tat Tone waterfall yesterday. Both pilots managed to eject to safety.
Two pilots were forced to eject from the 4 billion baht jet fighters yesterday when they crashed during the Thai-US Cobra Gold joint military exercise.
Air force spokesman Monthon Satchukorn said the warplanes were part of a fleet of four one-seat F16 ADFs (air defence fighters) that took off from Wing1 in Nakhon Ratchasima at about 9am.
The ill-fated F16s lost contact with ground control at 10.20am and were later reported to have plummeted into the forest near Tat Tone waterfall, about 20km north of Chaiyaphum.
AVM Monthon said villagers who live near the waterfall alerted the authorities about the crash. Search and rescue helicopters and land vehicles were immediately sent to the area.
He confirmed news reports the pilots managed to jettison to safety before their planes crashed.
AVM Monthon said details of the crash were not yet available as the authorities still had to interview the pilots.
He dismissed speculation the jets were involved in a mid-air collision. If that were the case, the pilots might not have had enough time to eject.
The crash occurred as tensions along the Cambodian border remained high.
Military personnel examine a wing of one of the two F16 fighters.
Two F16 jets were spotted last Thursday near the border in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district where there have been clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops over the past two weeks.
The air force insisted the two jets were taking part in Cobra Gold but admitted they had flown too close to the border during the military drill.
The air force spokesman brushed off a rumour that there could be a supernatural cause of the crash. "Do not believe in this sort of thing. I can't see how the crash could be related to that [black magic]. This is science: an engine problem perhaps, not superstition."