Taiwan air force searches for missing F-16 fighter after crash

12 F-16V fighter jets perform an elephant walk during an annual New Year's drill in Chiayi, Taiwan, January 5, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet vanished on Tuesday (Jan 11) while on a training mission over the sea and efforts are underway to find the pilot, the government said, in the latest accident to befall the island's air force.

The defence ministry said the F-16V, the most advanced type in Taiwan's fleet, went missing from radar screens after taking off from the Chiayi air base in southern Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen issued instructions to spare no efforts in the search and rescue mission and "to further clarify the cause of the accident", her spokesman said.

The government's Rescue Command Centre said witnesses had seen the aircraft crash into the sea and helicopters and ships were searching for the pilot.

In late 2020, an F-16 vanished shortly after taking off from the Hualien air base on Taiwan's east coast on a routine training mission.

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Last year, two F-5E fighters, which first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, crashed into the sea off the southeast coast after they apparently collided in mid-air during a training mission.

While Taiwan's air force is well trained, it has strained from repeatedly scrambling to see off Chinese military aircraft in the past two years, though the accidents have not been linked in any way to these intercept activities.

China, which claims the democratic island as its own, has been routinely sending aircraft into Taiwan's air defence zone, mostly in an area around the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands but sometimes also into the airspace between Taiwan and the Philippines.