US pilot rescued off coast of Japan


A U.S. Air Force pilot looks through the Heads Up Display (HUD) of his F-16 "Fighting Falcon" as he prepares to deploy on a mission April 2, 2003 at an air base near the Iraqi border.


Ian Waldie

An American pilot who ejected after his fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off northern Japan on Sunday was rescued after six hours in the water.

The pilots, who has not been named and who is in stable condition, was the only person aboard the F-16 Fighting Falcon, which crashed about 200 miles northeast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, according to CNN. Now safely aboard a US container ship, the pilot was rescued with the help of the Japanese Coast Guard, Japan Self Defense Forces, the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and civilian vessels.

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"We are thankful for the support from our Japanese friends and other agencies committed to ensuring the safe recovery of our airman," Col. Al Wimmer, vice commander of the 35th Fighter Wing, told UPI.

The US Air Force said it was preparing a statement with all the details of the pilot's rescue, according to Reuters. It had already said that the pilot had taken off from Misawa Air Base in Aomori and was headed for North America. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Reuters also reported that the crash happens to coincide with a heated debate between the US and Japan over plans to deploy a US military hybrid helicopter-plane with a spotty safety record from Japan in October. But Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said the F-16 crash should not influence the discussion.

"They are completely different matters," Okada told Reuters.