While the Taiwanese air force is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with US-made equipment, it pales in front of China. Beijing views the democratic island as its own territory and has never given up on the use of force to place it under Chinese control.
The Taiwanese air force said two F-5E fighters, each with a pilot, crashed into the sea off the island’s southeast coast after apparently colliding in the air during a training mission.
One pilot was found and airlifted to the hospital by helicopter, but later died, while the other was lost, Chief of Staff Huang Chih-wei told reporters, adding that the plane was in good working order.
He said the Air Force has now discontinued the F-5 fleet and suspended all training missions.
US F-5 fighters first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s and have mostly retired from frontline activities, although some are still used for training and as backup support to the main fleet.
Another F-5 crashed in October, killing the pilot. The following month, a more modern F-16 crashed off the east coast of Taiwan, and the captain of that plane also died.
In January last year, Taiwan’s chief military officer was among eight people killed after a helicopter carrying them to visit soldiers crashed in a mountainous area near the capital, Taipei.
The incidents raised concerns about both training and maintenance, but also the pressure the Air Force is under to respond to frequent Chinese flights near the island.