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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Air Force grounds all F-5 fighters, awaits further probe

ROC Central News Agency

2011/09/14 16:16:52

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Taiwan's Air Force has decided to ground all its F-5 fighter jets and await further investigation after a recent plane crash in northeastern Taiwan, an Air Force commander said Wednesday.

A twin-seater F-5F, along with an RF-5E reconnaissance plane, crashed into the mountains near Dongao in Yilan County late Tuesday. Body parts from the three pilots aboard the two aircraft were discovered early Wednesday.

At the moment, the military is still investigating the cause of the accident, and before further clarifications, all F-5 fighters will be grounded for safety sake, said Huang Jong-Chyi, a commander of Maintenance Command under the Air Force.

The U.S.-built F-5F fighters began operations in Taiwan's Air Force in 1974, but they were later relegated to training and intelligence gathering missions after the Air Force acquired the new generation of jet fighters, such as F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s, in the 1990s.

According to military sources, F-5F fighters perform well in low-altitude dogfights. The planes were often used to simulate enemy aircraft in training drills, but they are now mostly used in training missions.

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 currently in service.

Because of the planes' advanced age, the military has been working to maintain its available F-5 fighters. Their current availability rate is 58 percent, three percentage points over the ministerial standard, Huang said.

It was the sixth flight mishap involving an F-5F fighter in seven years, according to military figures. Seven pilots have been killed in those accidents. (By Tyon Lu and James Lee) ENDITEM/ly


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