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LIBYA: NATO confirms F-16 pilot safe after Sigonella ejection

A coalition aircraft involved in the Operation Unified Protector campaign to defend Libyan civilians has crashed on landing at Sigonella air base in Sicily, NATO has announced.

"An F-16 aircraft was involved in an incident upon landing on the outbound runway at approximately 11:35," the alliance said on 27 April. "The pilot ejected safely and his condition is currently being assessed."

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the aircraft was one of six Lockheed Martin F-16s to have been assigned to the Unified Protector mission by the United Arab Emirates air force. The service has also deployed six of its Dassault Mirage 2000-9s to the multinational effort, with its assets having been operating from Decimomannu air base in Sardinia.

"In line with NATO policy the nationality of the aircraft will not be released," the alliance says. The Royal Danish Air Force also has a detachment of F-16s operating from Sigonella. The service says its personnel provided assistance following the accident, and diverted four of its own aircraft to Trapani, Sicily after the base was closed.

© Kurt Hansen/Royal Danish Air Force

Today's mishap represents the second loss of an allied aircraft since the start of air activities against forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi on 19 March. A US Air Force crew ejected safely early in the campaign after their Boeing F-15E "experienced equipment malfunction" near Ajdabiya.

In its latest operational update, NATO says coalition aircraft have flown over 3,980 sorties since it assumed control of enforcing UN security council resolution 1973 on 31 March. Some 123 of these were logged on 26 April, it says.

NATO classes almost 1,660 of the total number as having been combat sorties "intended to identify and engage appropriate targets".

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