November 18, 2020 (by Lieven Dewitte) - On Tuesday night an RoCAF F-16 disappeared during a nighttime training mission. The Taiwanese defense ministry said the single-seater plane fell off radar screens about two minutes after taking off and that the fate of the pilot was unknown.
ROCAF F-16 #6672 went missing on Tuesday
The F-16 fighter jet (#6672
) disappeared from the radar screen 8 nautical miles northeast of Hualien Airbase at 18.17h local time. It was piloted by Colonel Jiang Zhen-zhi (44y), a flight instructor with 1,815 F-16 flight hours. The pilot and aircraft were assigned to the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, 26th Tactical Fighter Group.
A massive air and sea search was been ordered in the area surrounding the air base in the eastern city of Hualien along the Pacific coast.
The plane’s disappearance comes less than three weeks after a pilot was killed when he ejected from his F-5E fighter jet during training.
The incidents come as Taiwan
’s air force is under greater pressure to respond to incursions by warplanes from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.
After the incident Taiwan grounded all of its about 150 F-16s for safety inspections as it continues to search for the missing plane.
There have been nine F-16 crashes
since Taiwan took delivery of the fighters from the United States in 1997.
In 1999 there was a similar incident
when an F-16 disappeared over the China Sea off Green Island, Taiwan. After a month and a half the aircraft and pilot had still not been found. All Taiwanese F-16's were grounded as a result of the crash.