A Wisconsin Air National Guard Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Tuesday night while on a routine training mission and the fate of the pilot is unknown.
The aircraft was assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air in Madison, Wisconsin, according to a post on the unit’s Facebook page. It crashed about 8 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
At the time of the incident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board.
Emergency responders are on scene, according to the Facebook post.
“The cause of the crash, as well as the status of the pilot, are unknown at this time, and the incident is under investigation,” officials said.
The 115th Fighter Wing participated in a coordinated search effort with local emergency responders, the U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies overnight. Search-and-rescue efforts on the ground, in the air, and in the water continue.
The crash site, located in Delta County, Michigan was initially secured by local emergency responders until safety and security personnel from the 115th Fighter Wing arrived. Additional personnel will be sent later today to help facilitate the safety and security of the crash site.
The cause of the crash, as well as the status of the pilot, weren’t immediately known, the statement said. The plane went down in Hiawatha National Forest, about 250 miles (402 kilometers) northeast of the base. Capt. Leslie Westmont, a spokeswoman for the 115th, said she had no new information late Wednesday afternoon.
Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald said the crash occurred in the county’s northeastern corner in a rural area within Hiawatha National Forest, which spans about 879,000 acres (355,718 hectares), according to the forest’s website.
“It’s a very remote area with no cellphone service,” he said.
The closest community to the crash site is the small village of Steuben, located in adjacent Schoolcraft County, Oswald said. The sheriff’s office has blocked off local roads in the crash area, where he and his deputies did not see any fire or flames in the crash area overnight.
The crash remains under investigation Wednesday, authorities said.
“We are a close knit family and when an incident like this occurs, every member in our organization feels it,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, 115th Fighter Wing commander. “The safety of our pilot along with search and rescue efforts are our top priority, and we will continue to pray for the pilot’s safe return.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tweeted Wednesday morning that he was “devastated” when he heard about the crash and both he and his wife were praying for the pilot’s safe return.
An F-16 launched from Truax Field in 2011 plunged into a vacant house in Adams County, Wisconsin. The pilot ejected safely but fire and smoke forced 50 people to evacuate their homes.
The Air Force announced in April that Truax will receive a fleet of 18 new F-35 fighter planes to replace its 21 aging F-16s in 2023. Madison residents who live near the base have complained that the new jets will be so loud they won’t be able to live in their homes.
This is a developing story. Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report. Stay with Air Force Times for updates.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.