June 4, 2018 (by Lieven Dewitte) - On Monday, a Taiwanese F-16 pilot was killed as his jet crashed the mountains at the start of annual live-fire drills. The single-seat jet disappeared off the radar over mountainous terrain in the northeastern county of Keelung at 13.43h, half an hour after take off from Hualien Air Base.
F-16A (#6685) that crashed over Northern Taiwan
The defence ministry, local police and fire department conducted land and air searches for the 31-year-old pilot, Major Wu Yen-ting, for hours before discovering the wreckage of the plane (#6685
) on Monday evening.
After the radar signal was lost, a search party was immediately organized and dispatched to search the high altitude mountainous region. Parts of the single seat fighter were discovered and confirmed at approximately 14:39h in the afternoon.
Wu was also involved in a previous F-16 accident in Taiwan, in 2013
, when he parachuted to safety following a suspected mechanical failure with jet #93-0723
Wu graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009, and had amassed a total flight time of 1,039 hours, including 736 hours with the F-16 jet, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
Wu’s jet had been taking part in Taiwan
’s annual "Han Guang" (Han Glory) live-fire military drills, five days of exercises designed to bolster combat readiness in the event of an attack from across the Taiwan Strait by the People’s Liberation Army.
Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland and Beijing still sees it as a renegade province to be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary.
Taiwan's defence ministry has said the main goal of the drill is to counter any future Chinese military mission to the island.
As relations have soured between Beijing and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, China has increasingly flexed its military muscles.