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Taiwan fighter pilot killed in suspected collision

2021-03-22 HKT 17:21
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  • The US-built F-5 fighters first entered service in Taiwan in the late 1970s and have mostly been retired from front-line activities. File image: Shutterstock
    The US-built F-5 fighters first entered service in Taiwan in the late 1970s and have mostly been retired from front-line activities. File image: Shutterstock
A Taiwanese air force pilot was killed and another was missing on Monday after their fighter jets disappeared in a suspected mid-air collision off the island's southern coast, officials said.

The two F-5E jets disappeared from radar around 3pm local time, some 2.6 kilometres off the coast of rural Pingtung county, the National Rescue Command Centre said.

They were among four F-5Es that took off some 30 minutes earlier for a routine training mission, the centre said, adding helicopters and coastguard ships had joined the search.

One of the pilots was found unconscious in the sea but could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at hospital. Rescuers were still searching for the remaining pilot.

Police confirmed they found a seat with parachute attached on a local highway.

The official Central News Agency said the air force had now grounded the F-5 fleet that operates from the Chihhang air base, where the aircraft are based.

The US-built F-5 fighters first entered service in Taiwan in the late 1970s and have mostly been retired from front-line activities, though some are still used for training and as a back-up for the main fleet.

Another F-5 crashed in October, killing the pilot. The following month a much more modern F-16 crashed off Taiwan's east coast, whose pilot also died.

In January of 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 concern about both training and maintenance, but also the pressure the air force is under to respond to repeated PLA flights near the island.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry has warned PLA aircraft, including drones, are flying repeatedly in Taiwan's air defence identification zone, seeking to wear out Taiwan's air force. (AFP, Reuters)
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Last updated: 2021-03-22 HKT 18:40