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Search for downed F-16 aircraft terminated

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (Feb. 16, 2001) -- The search for the two F-16 aircraft that collided over the Sea of Japan Nov. 13, 2000 is complete. No wreckage was found in the month-long search.

Brig. Gen. Chip Utterback, 35th Fighter Wing commander, announced the decision to call off the search today after consulting with Brig. Gen. David. Clary, Safety Investigation Board president.

According to Utterback, the decision to call off the search is based on several factors, including ocean floor terrain, weather, safety, and the probability of finding the aircraft.

The underwater landscape where the aircraft may have settled following their collision was relatively uncharted before the USS Safeguard began its search.

"We have learned the terrain at the search area is extremely challenging," said Utterback, "the slope is steep along the side of Oshima Island. In some areas, the water is more than 8000 feet deep. The terrain consists of extremely rugged-trenches, valleys, spires and overhangs."

"Even if we had found the aircraft the subsurface environmental conditions and the resultant dangers might have made it impossible to recover the aircraft," said Utterback.