Two fighter jets yesterday collided in midair in a training exercise, causing one to crash and dislodging four air-to-air missiles.
The Air Force said two F-5E fighters of the 8th Fighter Wing were conducting the drill Close Air Support near Pocheon, located 46 kilometers north of Seoul, as part of its annual land, sea and air operations training when one fighter hit another from behind.
The former jet lost balance after the collision and crashed into a rice paddy in Pocheon, but the pilot ejected safely.
The other jet safely returned to an air base in Wonju, Gangwon Province, though the tip of its right rear wing was damaged.
All of the four AIM-9L missiles two from each jet fell to the ground after the collision.
The Air Force said the downed missiles did not detonate and no civilian damage was reported.
One of the three recovered missiles was found behind a village church 200 meters from the site of the crash. The second was recovered near the crash site, and the third was found in a nearby mountain 2.5 kilometers away.
The explosive ordinance disposal team recovered three of the four missiles from the crash site and a nearby mountain and is trying to locate the remaining one, an Air Force source said. Air-to-air missiles do not detonate because they are activated only by a switch that sends an electronic signal.
All flights by F-5E fighter jets were canceled and an investigation team was formed to probe the cause of collision.
The F-5E jets were manufactured by U.S. aerospace giant Northrop (now Northrop Grumman Corp.) in 1974, and one of the old fighters were imported by the Korean Air Force in 1978.
The Air Force has some 180 F-5 series jets including the F-5E that account for 30 percent of its fighter jets.