"The cause of the crash is unknown at this time," the Air Force said in a statement yesterday, adding the incident had occurred at 8:45 AM (2215 IST) north of Luke Air Force Base near the small town of Bagdad, Arizona.

Luke AFB officials are working closely with local authorities in a search and rescue operation. Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the status of the pilot is unknown.

The F-16 is made by Lockheed Martin, and used by about 20 countries.

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