An F-16 fighter jet exploded into flames on a Belgian airstrip after a maintenance worker accidentally pulled the trigger of a Vulcan cannon while working on another plane parked nearby, according to local reports.
The Belgian armed forces put out an initial statement after the incident on Thursday which said a “fire broke out during maintenance work”, on three aircraft at the Florennes military base, resulting in the destruction of one plane and with a second suffering “collateral damage”.
But according to Belgium’s civil servants’ union SLFP, the 40 million euro (£35m) fighter jet was destroyed after gunfire from a 6-barrel rotary M61A1 Vulcan cannon caused the fully loaded fuel tank to explode.
News outlet RTL.Info quoted the head of SLPF Défense who said the expensive damage was the result of an accident. He said: “We may be thinking about human fault or technical failure, but in any case we have not yet been warned of an intentional act."
Didier Di Giovanni, lieutenant-colonel of the base, which is 45 miles south of Brussels, said there had been “a light casualty” who was “evacuated by ambulance, suffering from hearing problems probably due to secondary explosions, and was taken to the hospital.
The fire was quickly brought under control, with rescue services brought in to help tackle the blaze.
All activities have been suspended at the base, and an investigation is underway.
Lt Col Di Giovanni added: “The material damage is very important.
"The plane that caught fire is probably destroyed. It has not yet been possible to see [the damage] precisely, because the site is being secured by the mine clearance services.”
Florennes air base is home to the 2nd Tactical Wing of the Belgian Armed Forces, which is part of the Nato response force.
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