This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
The Taiwanese military reported another fighter jet air crash on Monday, the second since the beginning of the year, and has grounded its fleet of French-built Mirage planes as it investigates.
A Mirage 2000-5 multirole fighter jet crashed into the sea near Taitung on the island’s southeastern coast during a routine combat training mission, the military said in a statement, adding that the pilot managed to eject safely and has been hospitalized for observation.
The army is searching for the aircraft and conducting an investigation into the accident, the statement said.
Air force Inspector-General Liu Hui-chien told reporters that the Mirage fleet would be grounded while the investigation was carried out.
Taiwan purchased 60 Mirage 2000 fighters in 1992 and last year signed a technical support service agreement with the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation S.A to help maintain the aging Mirage fleet.
On Jan. 11, a F-16V – one of the most advanced fighters in Taiwan’s possession, crashed in the sea off the west coast, killing its sole pilot.
The Taiwanese air force suspended combat training for its U.S.-made F-16 fleet for over a week but put them back in action in late January.
Heavy flight demands
In recent months, the island’s military airplanes have been scrambled regularly as China continued almost daily incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The rate was noticeably high in January. On Jan. 23 the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) deployed 39 aircraft in the island’s ADIZ.
Analysts say that the incursions may be strategically intended to wear down Taiwan’s air capabilities through near constant overuse and shortened maintenance schedules.
“Due to PLAAF increasing activities in Taiwan’s southwest, the Mirage aircraft originally based in Hsinchu were transferred to Taitung for training and tasks execution,” said Shen Ming-Shih, acting deputy chief executive officer at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
“As the investigation into the crash is being conducted, it cannot be ruled out that personnel and machine failure was due to heavy flight demands,” he said.
But this incident would not stop Taiwan’s air force from performing “the task of preventing Chinese incursions,” Shen said.
Last year, two F-5 fighter jets crashed into the sea near the southeastern coast in an apparent collision during a training mission, resulting in two deaths.
The Taiwanese air force suffered four crashes in 2020 including two helicopters and two fighter jets – an F-5 and a F-16.