Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the single-seater F-16 disappeared from radar screens over the Pacific Ocean just two minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base on the autonomous island’s east coast. at 6:05 p.m. local time.
The search for the pilot of the plane, Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih, is continuing, according to a statement from the office of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai told reporters on Wednesday morning that all F-16s on the island would be immobilized pending an investigation into the crash.
Despite the failure, Tsai said Taiwanese forces would remain ready to defend the island.
“The tasks of defense and combat readiness should not be relaxed a bit to ensure national security,” she said.
The F-16s represent one of Taiwan’s main forms of defense against possible Chinese military actions against it, and Taipei is looking to add newer and improved models to its fleet. In August, he finalized the purchase of 66 new F-16s from Washington in the largest US arms sale to Taiwan in years.
It also launched a new US-backed maintenance center for fighter jets in the central city of Taichung.
“The time required for aircraft maintenance will be drastically shortened and availability will be dramatically increased, ensuring the air force’s combat power on the front lines,” Tsai said at the time, according to Reuters.
Military aviation analyst Peter Layton, a former Australian Air Force officer now at the Griffith Asia Institute, said on Wednesday that the latest crash was not necessarily the result of a mechanical problem.
“Maybe they (the pilots) flew every day and not night training,” he said. “It’s more common than you might think. The real world often prevents training, ”he said.
Tuesday’s crash was the second involving a Taiwanese fighter in a month after one of its aging F-5 planes crashed in late October, Reuters reported.
CNN’s Steven Jiang, Shanshan Wang and Shawn Deng contributed to this report. Reuters additional reports.