Taiwanese F-16 crashes, killing pilot amid military exercises that simulate a Chinese attack
A Taiwanese air force fighter plane crashed Monday, killing the pilot and marring this week’s annual military exercises intended to help safeguard the island from its main foe, China.
The American-made F-16 fighter disappeared from radar screens an hour after takeoff Monday afternoon in low mountains outside the major northern port city of Keelung. Later, a hiker called police with reports of wreckage, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry and the government-backed Central News Agency reported. The pilot, identified as Maj. Wu Yen-ting, 31, died on the spot.
His crash, the second for Taiwan’s air force in less than a year, points to a lapse in personnel training and aircraft mechanics as Taiwan comes under more pressure from China, said Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.
Eight F-16s have crashed in Taiwan since 1998, according to the Defense Ministry. An air force Mirage 2000-model aircraft disappeared in November and was never found.
Monday kicked off Taiwan’s five-day Han Kuang live-fire exercises that simulate attacks from China.
China sits across an ocean strait, 100 miles from Taiwan at the nearest point, and has the world’s third-strongest armed forces.
Chinese officials claim sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and resent the Taiwanese president of two years, Tsai Ing-wen, for rejecting their idea that the two sides belong to a single country. Taiwan and China have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s.
Monday’s crash, attributed tentatively to weather conditions and human error, has grounded all F-16 flights until further notice. The air force has 140 of the fighter planes.
“Han Kuang will still be on, but of course the events with F-16 fighters would be changed,” Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.
China has flown military aircraft a dozen times just outside Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the past three year as pressure on Tsai.
Jennings is a special correspondent.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.