An F-16 Fighting Falcon from Cannon Air Force Base was forced to jettison its external tanks immediately after takeoff when it experienced a serious system malfunction today at approximately 10:35 a.m., according to a news release.
The pilot was able to save the $35 million aircraft by jettisoning the external tanks, maintaining control of the aircraft and safely landing back at Cannon, averting a much greater mishap, according to the news release.
The tanks held 740 gallons of fuel, said Sr. Airman Thomas Trower of Cannon public affairs.
The external tanks, which were destroyed upon impact, landed on private property less than two miles northwest of the base, according to the news release. Cannon first responders secured the site of the jettisoned tanks within minutes and were able to contain and minimize any environmental impacts.
The F-16 was assigned to Cannon, Trower said.
Cannon is working with state and local officials to return the location to its original state.
The incident is currently under investigation.
Trower said any effect on the departure of the plane or on airmen still at Cannon will depend on the outcome of the investigation.