TOKYO, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- An F-16 fighter jet belonging to the U.S. Misawa Airbase in northern Japan caught fire shortly after taking off on Tuesday morning, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
Citing reports from the U.S. military, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that a fire in the plane's engine broke out as soon as the F-16 jet took off at around 8:39 a.m. local time from the Misawa Airbase in Aomori Prefecture.
The fire forced the pilot to dump the plane's two external fuel tanks into the nearby Ogawara Lake, located to the north of the airbase. The fighter jet returned to the base at 8:42 a.m. local time.
The dumping of the fuel tanks is one of the standard procedures in response to an engine fire to ensure the tanks, themselves loaded with fuel, don't explode.
The release of the tanks also greatly lightens the weight of the plane so it can be better maneuvered under duress.
There has been no report of injuries or damage on the ground or in the lake where the tanks were jettisoned.
As the number of U.S. military aircraft-linked accidents and mishaps continues to rise disproportionately of late, Onodera said he will seek explanations from the U.S. side as to why this latest incident occurred and demand that measures be taken to prevent the recurrence of such mishaps.