June 1, 1999 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A series of crashes has led Taiwan's air force to temporarily ground its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters for inspections. The air force command has ordered that various flight missions by all F-16s be suspended for special inspection.
Flights will only be resumed after the inspection. On Tuesday a F-16 fighter carrying one pilot disappeared off eastern Taiwan
during a routine night training mission. Neither the pilot nor the plane had been found, the defense ministry said.
The ministry said rescuers on Wednesday found some jet fuel in the sea where the plane was missing, but declined to confirm that the plane had crashed. In January, an F-16 with two pilots crashed into a tea plantation during routine training and hit a house. In March 1998, an F-16 disappeared over the Taiwan Strait and was never found.
The Taiwan air force said it had to carry out strict inspections of the F-16s to ensure flight safety in the future. Taiwan 150 of F-16 in 1992, which infuriated Beijing. Its first F-16 squadron was formed in October 1997. China has viewed the island as a wayward province since the end of the civilwar in 1949 and has warned other countries against forging ties with or selling arms to Taiwan.