Air Force pilots eject to safety in Mirage jet crash
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, May 20 (CNA) An Air Force twin-seater Mirage 2000-5 jet fighter crashed into waters west of Hsinchu in northern Taiwan Monday morning, but its pilots ejected to safety before the plane hit the water, according to Air Force Command Headquarters.
The French-built fighter went down soon after taking off from the air base in Hsinchu at 9:54 a.m. on a regular training mission, but the cause of the crash is not yet known, the Air Force said in a statement.
It was the second Air Force jet fighter to be lost in less than a week.
On May 15, an Air Force single-seater F-16 fighter jet ploughed into the Taiwan Strait off the southern county of Chiayi. Its pilot also ejected to safety before it went down.
Immediately after the Mirage crash, an S-70C helicopter was sent to airlift the pilots to safety, the Air Force said, adding that the pilots have been taken to a hospital in Hsinchu for observation.
Yang Ching-se, political warfare division chief of the Air Force Mirage wing headquartered at the Hsinchu air base, said the two pilots were not injured in the accident and are both in good spirits.
The Air Force said it has formed a special task force to investigate the cause of the mishap and has grounded its fleet of Mirage 2000-5s for safety inspections.
Taiwan bought 60 Mirage fighters from France in the 1990s. A Mirage squadron was commissioned into service in 1997, and the Mirage wing was inaugurated in 2001.
The Mirage fighters along with U.S.-built F-16s and locally developed Ching-kuo IDF jet fighters form the backbone of Taiwan's air arsenal.
Four Mirage fighters, including the aircraft that was lost Monday, have crashed during training missions since the Mirage fleet has been in service, leaving two Air Force pilots missing and another one dead.
(By Hsieh Chia-chen, Rogge Chen and Sofia Wu)
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