Taiwan loses fifth F-16 jet fighter
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 4 (CNA) The F-16 jet fighter that lost contact with air traffic controllers during a night flying training exercise Tuesday was the fifth of Taiwan's F-16 fleet that has crashed over the past years, according to an air force official.
Taiwan purchased 150 F-16 A/B jet fighters from the United States in the 1990s and is seeking to purchase more advanced versions of F-16 C/D. The U.S. government has not yet agreed to Taiwan's procurement plan.
The F-16s as well as French-built Mirage fighters and locally developed IDF Ching-kuo fighters form the backbone of Taiwan's air force fleet.
Military and coast guard personnel continued a search in waters 42 nautical miles southeast of the eastern county of Hualien late Tuesday for a missing air force F-16 jet fighter and its pilot.
The single-seat fighter plane lost contact with air traffic controllers about 28 minutes after it took off from an air base in Hualien at 6:50 p.m. for a routine night flying training exercise, an air force spokesman said.
The pilot, Maj. Ting Shih-pao, is believed to have ejected from the stricken plane, said Yang Feng-shen, the political warfare department chief of the Air Force 401 Wing, to which the ill-fated plane belonged.
Ting had not made contact with the ground controllers before the plane disappeared from radar screens, nor had he made any distress call, Yang said. According to Yang, Ting, 34, could have ejected from the plane when the accident occurred. He has been listed as missing.
The military has dispatched a C-130 transport, two S-70C submarine-hunting helicopters and naval vessels to comb the maritime areas where the U.S.-built fighter was feared to have crashed, Yang said, adding that coast guard units have also sent patrol ships to join the seach mission.
As of the press time, no plane wreckage has been discovered, nor any signals from the plane's ejecting equipment has been detected, Yang said. Maj. Ting, who had fathered a son, had a flight record of 1,234.5 hours and his F-16 flight record already reached 400 hours, according to Yang.
(By Sofia Wu)
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