Taiwan Halts Training on US-Made F-16V Viper Fighters After Jet Crashes into Sea, Pilot Missing
Story Code : 973206
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), an F-16V “Viper” fighter disappeared off radar screens at 3:23 pm on Tuesday afternoon, about 30 minutes after taking off from Chiayi Air Base in Southern Taiwan.
Visibility was good at the time of the crash, with visibility up to 7 nautical miles, Taiwanese Maj. Gen. Liu Hui-chien told reporters.
A civilian observer on land reportedly saw the plane plummet into the sea, as did another Taiwanese pilot. The crashing pilot, Captain Chen Yi, was not seen ejecting from his aircraft before impact.
“The pilot was practicing simulated air-to-ground blasting, and visibility at that time was fine,” Liu told reporters, adding, “When he proceeded to the part which required him to fire at a 20-degree angle, his plane rapidly slanted into the sea.”
Lui said that safety checks were being conducted on all of Taiwan’s 140 F-16 fighters and a round-the-clock search for Chen was taking place.
Surface water temperature in the Northernmost parts of the South China Sea where Chen crashed remains fairly uniform year-round at around 28.8 degrees Celsius, meaning if he survived the crash, Chen at least won’t face a danger of hypothermia.
The aircraft, identified as serial number 6650, was delivered to Taiwan by the United States in December 1998 as an F-16A Falcon - one of the earliest models designed by General Dynamics in the 1970s, but sold to Taiwan as a second-rate fighter in the 1990s. However, under a 2017 deal, the US was in the process of upgrading 144 of Taiwan’s older F-16 fighters to become F-16V “Vipers”, which included new avionics, radar, various cockpit improvements, and an automated ground collision avoidance system.
The jet that crashed on Tuesday had recently finished its upgrades to F-16V status, the island’s de facto defense ministry announced. It was the first crash of a Viper, but the eighth major accident involving a Taiwanese F-16 since 1998. In six instances, the pilot was either killed or unaccounted for.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the crashed jet was one of 24 Vipers recently commissioned by the Taiwanese Air Force to boost its air defense. The autonomous island regularly scrambles its fighter jets to confront Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft flying from mainland China through airspace that Taiwan claims as its own. Such air defense identification zones (ADIZs) have no grounding in international law and the confrontations take place in international airspace, but are regularly reported in the Western press as being “provocative” violations of Taiwanese airspace.
The more advanced jets have been rushed into service to confront Chinese fighters like the J-20, which outclass any aircraft used by the Taiwanese but which the PLAAF presently only has in small numbers.