Pakistan pilot dies after F-16 jet crashes during rehearsal

A Pakistani fighter pilot died on Wednesday when his F-16 jet crashed in a wooded area near Islamabad during a rehearsal for an upcoming military parade in the capital, the country’s air force said.

There were no casualties on the ground or damage to property, according to an air force statement.

Pakistan’s President Afif Alvi expressed his condolences to the family of the pilot, who has been identified as Noman Akram, the Associated Press reported.

The US-built F-16 was taking part in rehearsals for a Pakistan Day airshow and parade set to take place on March 23, according to a statement by the Pakistan Air Force.

“Rescue teams have been dispatched towards the site of the crash,” the statement said, adding that “a board of inquiry has been ordered by Air Headquarters to determine the cause of accident”.

Footage on social media showed a large plume of smoke billowing into the sky after the plane plummeted to the ground, having apparently attempted a loop.

A second security official speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed the crash.

F-16 jets are among the most valuable defence hardware in the Pakistani military’s arsenal. The country has a fleet of about 50 F-16s, each worth at least $40m.

The South Asian nation has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

Wednesday’s incident comes only months after a fighter jet crashed during a training mission near the city of Mianwali in eastern Punjab province, killing both pilots.

In July last year, at least 18 people were killed when a small military plane belonging to the army crashed into a residential area in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

And in 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines aeroplane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from remote northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

Pakistan’s powerful military consumes a large portion of the country’s yearly budget, spending millions on sophisticated hardware in the impoverished nation, which critics say has come at the expense of investment in other sectors.

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