TAIPEI (Reuters) – Two Taiwanese fighter jets crashed on Monday in the third such incident in the middle of last year, at a time when the armed forces of the alleged Beijing islands are under increasing pressure to capture Chinese planes in almost daily basis.
While the Taiwanese air force is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with US-made equipment, it is devalued by Chinas. Beijing sees the democratic island as its territory and has never given up the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.
The Taiwan Air Force said two F-5E Air Force fighters, each with a pilot on board, collided at sea off the coast of the southeast coast islands after they collided in the air during a training mission.
One pilot was found and airlifted to hospital by helicopter but later died while the other is missing, Air Force Chief of Staff Huang Chih-wei told reporters, adding that the planes were in good working order.
The Air Force has now dropped the F-5 fleet and suspended all training missions, he said.
US-built F-5 fighters were first introduced to Taiwan in the 1970s and have largely retired from frontline activities, although some are still used for training and as support for the main fleet.
Another F-5 crashed in October, killing the pilot. The following month a much more modern F-16 crashed off the east coast of Taiwan and the pilot of this aircraft also died.
In January last year, Taiwan’s top military official was among eight people killed after a helicopter carrying them to visit soldiers crashed in a mountainous area near the capital Taipei.
The incidents have raised concerns about both training and maintenance, but also the pressure the air force has to respond to repeated Chinese flights near the island.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense has warned Chinese planes, including drones, are constantly flying in the Taiwan air defense identification area, seeking to consume the Taiwanese air force.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie and Chizu Nomiyama
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