(PatrioticPost.com)- On Tuesday, Taiwan’s air force suspended combat training for its F-16 fleet after one of the fighter jets crashed into the sea after take-off.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said one of the recently-upgraded F-16V aircraft, the most advanced fighter jet in Taiwan’s fleet, went missing from radar screens shortly after taking off from the Chiayi airbase for a training mission over a coastal firing range.
President Tsai Ing-wen ordered that the air force spare no effort in its search and rescue mission and called for an investigation to “further clarify the cause of the accident.”
According to Taiwan’s Rescue Command Center, witnesses saw the aircraft crash into the sea. Searchers have recovered some wreckage of the aircraft’s fuselage, and ships and helicopters were searching for the 28-year-old pilot, Captain Chen Yi.
According to Taiwanese media, an initial investigation found that Chen blocked his communication with air command when he inadvertently switched on the speaker key during the flight. Some air force veterans believe Captain Chen may have mistaken the button for a slow-down key.
Some analysts believe the crash points to problems both with pilot training and with fatigue from responding to endless sorties by Chinese warplanes.
Captain Chen had more than 300 hours of flight time, 60 hours in the F-16V jet.
The F-16V is an upgrade of the US-made F-16A/B fighter jet and went into service in November of last year. It is equipped with new weapons and flight control systems. Some analysts believe Taiwan’s pilot training program might not have kept pace with the newer systems.
While Taiwan’s air force is well-trained, the strain from repeatedly scrambling to respond to Chinese military aircraft for the last two years has taken its toll.
While no accidents have been linked to the intercept activities in response to Chinese incursions, this is the tenth accident since Taiwan’s air force took delivery of 150 of the initial F-16 versions in 1997.
The air force has grounded the fleet for inspection.