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Norwegian F-16 Mistakenly Fires at Own Control Tower

A Norwegian fighter jet came close to gunning down three military officers after it mistakenly shot at a control tower on a training exercise, officials said Monday.

The F-16 was one of two aircraft firing at ground targets on the island of Tarva, off Norway's west coast. The incident happened just after midnight on April 13 but officials only revealed the mishap Monday.

Somehow the Royal Norwegian Air Force aircraft machine-gunned the control tower 1,500 feet away from the nearest target, Air Force spokesman Stian Roen told NBC News.

Image: Norwegian F-16 accompanying Russian Tu-95
A Norwegian Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon.

The jet was armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon, which can fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute. It hit the tower but the three Norwegian officers inside were unharmed.

"It was close," Roen said. "You can imagine, of course, that they were shocked when this happened."

The cannon was using "cold rounds," meaning the ammunition did not explode on impact. Nevertheless a direct hit from the gun could easily have proved fatal.

The pilot and the three officers had an immediate debrief with investigators, who are now attempting to determine what went wrong.

The same firing range was the scene of a strikingly similar incident in 2009, according to Roen. An F-16 shot the same control tower, with at least one round penetrating the building, but none of those inside were injured.

After that incident, officials made changes to the firing range, and these would be reviewed again after this month's near miss.