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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Control Yuan to probe cause of military plane crashes

ROC Central News Agency

2011/09/14 14:52:52

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Two Control Yuan members said Wednesday they will investigate the cause of crashes by two military aircraft during a nighttime training mission in Yilan County Tuesday night that left three pilots dead.

"We will investigate whether anybody in charge of the flight mission should be held accountable for the tragic accident," said Cheng Jen-hung, who joined with Control Yuan colleague Chao Chang-ping in initiating the probe.

Cheng said he felt deep regret and distressed over the latest flight mishaps, which led to the loss of three lives.

"It's not easy to nurture a military pilot," Cheng said, adding that if the accidents were caused by the negligence of any agency in charge of the mission, the Control Yuan would not rule out the possibility of proposing disciplinary action.

An F-5F fighter and an RF-5E reconnaissance aircraft crashed separately into mountains in the northeastern county during a nighttime training mission Tuesday night. Parts of the bodies of the missing pilots and wreckage from the two planes were found Wednesday by search teams.

It was the sixth flight mishap involving an F-5F fighter in seven years, according to military numbers. Seven pilots were killed in those accidents.

Citing military data, Cheng said F-5 fleet has the lowest availability rate among all military aircraft in active service in Taiwan.

"The average availability of F-5 fleet was only 19.8 percent in 2010. We will look into the military's availability assessment standards, aircraft maintenance and management, and manpower training programs to see whether there were any flaws or deficiencies in these areas," Cheng said.

The Control Yuan, the government body empowered to investigate and discipline questionable behavior by public agencies and officials, has investigated more than 10 accidents involving military aircraft in recent years, Cheng said, and he pledged to look deeper into the issue.

Cheng said he and his partner would track whether the agencies involved had improved flaws singled out by Control Yuan members in those cases and would also look into whether any new problems had arisen related to the supervision of military aircraft.

The U.S.-built F-5F fighters were put into service in Taiwan's Air Force in the 1970s, but they were later relegated to training and intelligence gathering missions after the Air Force acquired a new generation of jet fighters, such as F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s, in the 1990s.

According to military sources, F-5F twin-seater fighters perform well in low-altitude clashes with other aircraft. They were mostly used to simulate enemy aircraft in training drills, but are now flown mostly on training missions because of their advanced age.

At its height, Taiwan had a fleet of 66 F-5Fs, but aside from depletion through accidents, others have been taken out of service, leaving 32 in service today. (By Sophia Yeh and Sofia Wu) enditem/ls

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