Air force forms task force to investigate F-16 mishap
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 5 (CNA) A special task force has been formed to investigate the disappearance of an F-16 jet fighter that lost contact with air traffic controllers during a routine night flying training drill, the Air Force announced Tuesday night.
The single-seat jet fighter (serial number 6706), part of the Air Force 401 Wing, disappeared from radar screens about 28 minutes after it took off from an airbase in the eastern county of Hualien at 6: 50 p.m. Tuesday on the training mission, Air Force Command Headquarters said in a news release.
The plane, flown by Maj. Ting Shih-pao, was flying over waters some 42 nautical miles southeast of Hualien at the time.
It is not yet clear if the pilot ejected from the stricken plane. Ting, 34, who had flown 1,234.5 hours, has been listed as missing.
He did not issue a distress call or even make contact with ground controllers before the plane disappeared, according to Yang Feng-sheng, the political warfare chief of the Air Force 401 Wing.
Expressing deep regret over the tragic mishap, the Air Force said in its statement that the task force had gone to Hualian airbase to help identify possible causes of the accident.
Defense Minister Tsai Ming-hsien, meanwhile, ordered an all-out search for the plane. The military dispatched a C-130 transport plane, two S-70C submarine-hunting helicopters and naval vessels to comb the waters where the jet fighter was feared to have crashed, Yang said late Tuesday.
Coast guard units have also sent patrol ships to join the search mission.
No plane wreckage has so far been discovered, nor had any signals from the plane's ejecting equipment been detected, Yang said.
It was the fifth F-16 in Taiwan's fleet that has crashed over the past year. 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 the F-16 C/D. The U.S. government has not yet agreed to Taiwan's request.
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.
(By Sofia Wu)
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