May 27, 2024

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Taiwan halts Mirage planes after crashing into sea

Taiwan halts Mirage planes after crashing into sea

Taiwan’s Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter planes during a military exercise to test readiness before the Lunar New Year, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 16, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force grounded its fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters on Monday after one crashed into the sea, the second combat aircraft to inspect in three months although this time the pilot was rescued.

The air force said the French-made plane took off shortly after 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on a training mission from Qihang Air Base in the southeastern city of Taitung, and reported that it had to turn back after a mechanical problem.

She added that the pilot was expelled over the sea south of the air base and was rescued safely and in good condition by helicopter.

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Air Force Inspector General Liu Huixin told reporters that the Mirage fleet would be grounded while an investigation was underway.

Taiwan received its first of 60 Mirage aircraft in 1997, although it has been upgraded several times since then. Six of them have since been lost in accidents.

In January, the Air Force suspended combat training for its largest fleet of F-16s after a recently upgraded fighter jet crashed into the sea, killing the pilot. Read more

Last year, two F-5Es, which first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, crashed into the sea after apparently colliding in mid-air during a training mission, also from Chihang Air Base.

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In late 2020, an F-16 disappeared shortly after taking off from Hualien Air Force Base on Taiwan’s east coast on a routine training mission.

While the Taiwan Air Force is well-trained, it has repeatedly struggled to bid farewell to Chinese military aircraft entering its air defense zone in the past two years, although the incidents have not been linked in any way to these interception activities.

China, which claims the democratic island as its own, has routinely sent aircraft into the Taiwanese air defense zone, mostly in the area around the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, but occasionally in the airspace between Taiwan and the Philippines.

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(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimo Lee) Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Raisa Kasulowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.