Taiwan’s rescue team searches for the missing F-16 fighter jet during an exercise on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. The disappearance of this advanced fighter jet is the second time in the past year.
The Taiwanese Air Force suspended all exercises for its F-16V jets after the plane disappeared from radar screens about half an hour after takeoff. The incident occurred just before 15:00 local time.
“The plane fell into the sea during a shooting drill,” Inspector General Liu Hui-chien said, quoted by Bloomberg.
The pilot did not appear to have ejected. However, the Taiwanese Air Force did not rule out the possibility that he survived the accident.
Taiwan’s military has set up a response center to coordinate search and recovery operations with the help of the coast guard and police. The jet is one of 64 F-16V units used by the Taiwanese Air Force in November.
“Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has ordered the military and emergency services to treat rescue operations as their top priority,” said presidential office spokesman Chang Tun-han.
The disappearance of the fighter jet is the latest in a string of Taiwanese military aviation accidents in recent years. This incident renews concerns about Taiwan’s aging defense equipment.
The incident comes as Taiwan has had to deploy more jets over the past year to fend off aggressive Chinese maneuvers.
Taiwan grounded all military aircraft in March last year, after two F-5 jets collided mid-air. The tragedy killed one pilot and left another missing.
In November 2020, a Taiwanese F-16 plane went missing off the east coast, minutes after taking off from a base in Hualien. So far, the plane has not been found.