Brickbat: Always Assume Your Cannon Is Loaded


F-16 jet
Jason Smith /

A mechanic with the Belgian military accidentally fired the cannon on an airplane he was working on. It struck an F-16 fighter jet parked nearby, causing it to explode in flames.

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  1. Maybe it’s good that there are so few actual brickbats these days that we’ve dipped into using mishaps. Anyway, today’s joke is:

    Come fly the friendly fire skies!

    1. Well, I’d imagine the secondary explosions produced quite a few brickbats flying around.

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  2. well, at least the canon worked…just sayin

    1. The libertarian *canon*? Seems like a statist *canon*.

  3. Finally. An uplifting brickbat.

  4. Chinese and Russians feverishly taking notes on weak spot on F-16 allowing it to be downed with a single burst of fire.

    1. most man-made objects don’t respond well to canon fire, i’s a feature…

      1. A-10 was made by Timex.

    2. That has nothing to do with a weak spot.

      In air to air combat, the hard part is getting even 1 or 2 rounds from a single burst to actually hit the target, because you are trying to hit a moving target from a moving platform with ballistic projectiles. This is why modern air combat doctrine favors the use of guided air to air missiles over cannons.

      Here you have two planes on the ground and not moving, so the target plane took the full burst.

      1. so -1 for shooting a fish in a barrel?

  5. In this day of missile technology, an actual gunfire strike.

    Hidden at the bottom the linked article (and its 73 blocked ads), is this gem;
    “It has not yet been possible to see [the damage] precisely, because the site is being secured by the mine clearance services.”

    Say what? Mine clearance services?

    1. EOD needs to clean up unexploded munitions, likely from the struck jet.

  6. Wow, that was a $20-million mistake! Are they going to dock all of his pay for all of his next 30 lifetimes?

    1. If they are like the US Army, enlisted can only be docked a maximum of one month’s pay unless the action was criminal.

  7. You know who else accidentally broke some expensive hardware on the job?

    1. NASA?

    2. Everyone who’s ever worked with expensive hardware on the job?

  8. 4 Rules – they apply to all guns.

  9. Belgium has a military? Why?

    1. Can’t trust the Dutch.

    2. So that then NATO does anything they can toss in a couple square heads.

    3. So that the next time the Germans invade France through Belgium, they can say “we tried”. Again…

      Seriously, Belgium has the NATO headquarters and one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, FN Herstal. They ought to have at least a token military, enough to try out FN’s latest design.

  10. Does he get credit for a kill?

  11. Cars DON’T typically explode when hit by bullets.

    Aircraft DO explode when hit by bullets.

    Stick that in your movie and smoke it!

    1. If you shot up a car with a 20mm cannon, it would probably explode.

      1. The flammable items that set an aircraft ablaze are not present in a car.

        Furthermore, 20mm rounds would pass right thru a car. The engine block is really the only objects to slow a 20mm round down.

        1. Gasoline is shitloads more flammable than kerosene.

          1. Yes, but the target aircraft was probably loaded with explosive 20mm shells and missile warheads, some of which could have been set off by the incoming 20mm rounds. When you hit a magazine of cannon rounds with an explosive shell, it’s possible to get a chain reaction that will detonate the entire magazine.

            1. That and liquid gas does not explode or catch on fire. The vapor does and flashes the liquid gasoline into vapor which then catches fire or explodes depending.

        2. re: “20mm rounds would pass right thru a car”

          Not really. Airplanes are generally even less dense than cars. They have to be in order to fly. 20mm rounds work because they have extremely sensitive fuses on the front of the round that go off very, very quickly after contact with the thin skin of the plane.

          And, yes, 20mm rounds used by air forces are almost exclusively explosive. The A10 was sometimes loaded with non-explosive 20mm depleted uranium sabot rounds but it was for designed tank-killing, not air-to-air combat.

          1. The A-10 uses 30mm shells. Not 20mm.

            Cars weigh around 2000lbs. A tiny jet like a F-16 weighs 20,000 lbs. Max takeoff weight is 48,000 lbs.

        3. 20mm anti-aircraft rounds are explosive shells, fused to explode when they hit even the thinnest part of an airplane. However, the explosive load is necessarily rather small; an individual round just gives you a small explosion to blow a bigger hole in the sheet metal. Since military aircraft are mostly fuel tanks, several hits are likely to set the aircraft ablaze. Cars have smaller fuel tanks, mostly buried under two or more layers of sheet steel, so the chances of a random round reaching the tank are slim.

          1. And a hit to the magazine that holds the cannon rounds for the target plane could cause a chain reaction detonation of all the rounds in the magazine. The full magazine holds thousands of rounds. On shell might not have that much explosive force, but thousands, with not just the shell payload, but the propellant charges going off at once? Now you see it, now you don’t.

    2. Especially if every spare cubic inch was filled with fuel.

    3. to the bat lab!!! needs more testing

  12. It seems odd to me. Modern military aircraft have a Weight on Wheels block on weapons …

    1. Presumably whatever the mechanic was working on was beyond that block.

  13. They called me “loaded cannon” at the Naval War College.

  14. This looks like something McCain would do. In fact, didn’t he?

  15. Given the plethora of safeties on aircraft designed to prevent exactly this (including the one that disables the gun if weight is on the wheels, aka plane is on the ground) I suspect there is a great deal more to this story.

  16. Unexpected cannon fire has happened to the best of us.

  17. Ironically Belgians were instrumental in inventing the safe modern machine gun.

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