Taiwan loses two fighter jets in apparent collision, the third of its kind in six months


TAIPEI, March 22 (Reuters) – Two Taiwanese fighter jets crashed in the third such incident in the past half a year on Monday, at a time when the armed forces of the island claimed by Beijing are under increasing pressure. increased to intercept Chinese aircraft almost daily. .

While Taiwan’s air force is well-trained and well-equipped, primarily with US-made equipment, it is dwarfed by China’s. Beijing views the democratic island as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

Taiwan’s National Rescue Command Center said two air force F-5E fighters, each with a pilot on board, crashed into the sea off the island’s southeast coast after apparently colliding in midair. during a training mission.

A helicopter from the air force, coast guard and other rescue boats have rushed to search for the pilots, he added.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was working on a statement and did not provide any other immediate comment. The official Central News Agency said the air force had grounded the fleet of F-5s operating from Chihhang Air Base, where the aircraft is based.

US-built F-5 fighters first entered service in Taiwan in the late 1970s and have mostly been retired from front-line activities, although some are still used for training and as backup 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, the pilot of which was also killed.

In January last year, Taiwan’s top military officer 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 for both training and maintenance, but also the pressure the air force is under to respond to repeated Chinese flights near the island.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense has warned that Chinese aircraft, including drones, are repeatedly flying in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, seeking to wear down the Taiwanese air force. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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