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‘Unfriendly’ Korean fighter jets grounded

THE newly acquired FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea have been grounded after a “friendly fire” incident killed two soldiers and injured 11 others, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.

“The FA-50 will momentarily be pulled out from deployment until the investigation is finished and once we ascertain the reason why the bombs went off target,” AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla said in a news conference.

“The AFP is suspending the use of that particular aircraft. For any further airstrike until such time that the cause of the accident has been determined, or the failure of the equipment has been determined,” he added.

This was the second time troops were killed in a friendly fire incident in Marawi. In May, an Air Force SF-260 jet dropped its payload on members of the 55th Infantry Battalion, killing 10 soldiers.

Despite Wednesday’s incident, Padilla said the FA-50, equipped with Sidewinder air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles, has been effective in providing air support.

“The success rate of the aircraft is very high. Out of the 70 plus missions, this is the only time when you had one wayward bomb that didn’t hit its target,” he said.

Three other bombs from the FA-50 hit Maute group terrorists, he added.

The Armed Forces has 12 FA-50 fighter jets bought by the previous administration from Korean Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion.

While the Korean jets are grounded, the military can still use its other air assets, including the OV 10 and MG-520 bombers, and attack helicopters against terrorist positions in Marawi City, Padilla said.

MILITANTS’ ARCHENEMY. This photo, taken on June 24, but released only on July 13, shows a Philippine Air Force South Korean-made FA-50 fighter aircraft flying overhead while targetting militant Islamist positions in Marawi City. ‘Friendly fire’ from a fighter jet has left two soldiers dead and 11 injured as government troops try to crush the militants. AFP

In Wednesday’s incident, the jet fighter dropped four bombs, one of which missed its intended target and hit a building near some soldiers, Padilla said.

The building collapsed and fell on the government troops, killing two of them.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed regret over the friendly fire incident, saying it reflected the “harsh nature of urban warfare where soldiers operate in tight spaces and in close proximity to the enemy.”

Lorenzana acknowledged that retaking the last positions still held by the terrorists was proving difficult because civilians were still trapped in the battle zone, where the enemy uses hostages as human shields and children as combatants.

“Our resolve to end the situation, however, has not wavered. In fact, we are now more determined than ever to finally eliminate these terrorists, and we will not stop until evil is vanquished, not only in

Marawi City, but also in the whole of Mindanao,” he added.

Malacañang on Thursday expressed regret to the families of two slain soldiers killed by friendly fire.

“On behalf of the President, we wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of the two soldiers who were killed in yesterday’s airstrike accident while fighting Maute rebel remnants,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Abella said the government would investigate the incident to avoid similar accidents in the future. With John Paolo Bencito

Topics: FA-50 fighter jets , “friendly fire” , Grounded , Armed Forces of the Philippines , AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla
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