A Taiwanese air force pilot died on Tuesday morning during a training exercise in the south of the island, the military said.
23-year-old 2nd Lt. Hsu Ta-chun, a trainee from the Air Force Academy, was on only his second solo flight on board a AT-3 Tzu Chung jet trainer.
The aircraft went missing from radar minutes after it took off.
Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau personnel found the pilot’s body at the crash site near the city.
The air force said Hsu was among a group of five pilots who were conducting exercises using AT-3 trainers. The other four returned safely.
The AT-3 Tzu Chung is a Taiwan-made jet trainer, first brought into service during the 1980s. The air force operates over 60 AT-3s for training purposes.
This is the third air accident reported this year by the Taiwanese military.
A Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed into the sea off Taiwan’s southeastern coast during a routine training mission in March, leading to the grounding of the whole fleet of French-built planes. The pilot ejected safely and the Mirages have since gone back to operation.
In mid-January 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.
Surge in Chinese incursions
Meanwhile 30 Chinese airplanes flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, making it the second highest number of daily incursions since the beginning of the year. An ADIZ is an area where foreign aircraft are tracked and identified before further entering into a country’s airspace.
Taiwan’s military provided a list of Chinese aircraft spotted on Monday inside the island’s ADIZ, including eight Shenyang J-11 fighter jets, six Shenyang J-16 fighter jets, four Chengdu J-10 fighter jets, two Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, two Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, one Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine warfare plane, one Shaanxi Y-8 electronic warfare plane, four Shaanxi Y-8 electronic intelligence spotter planes and two KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
Taiwan responded by scrambling combat patrol aircraft, issuing radio warnings, and deploying air defense missile systems.
The incursions by Chinese warplanes happened shortly after two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Ronald Reagan, reportedly held drills on Saturday and Sunday in waters to the southeast of Okinawa.
The record number of incursions this year so far was reported on January 23 when 39 Chinese military aircraft intruded into Taiwan’s ADIZ. The all-time single-day record for the most Chinese warplanes spotted inside the island’s ADIZ was 56 on Oct. 4, 2021.
U.S. senator meets Taiwan president
The surge of the incursions coincided with the arrival of a U.S. delegation led by Senator Tammy Duckworth. She is in Taipei for three days to discuss regional security, trade and investment and global supply chains with Taiwanese leaders, according to the American Institute, the U.S. de facto embassy.
Duckworth met with President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday, saying she wanted to “emphasize our support for Taiwan security,” according to comments obtained by the Associated Press.
Duckworth has put forward a bill to the U.S. Congress calling for cooperation between Taiwan’s military and the U.S. National Guard. The National Guard is a reserve component of the U.S. Army and Air Force under the control of state governors and the president.
Tsai thanked Duckworth for “keeping a close watch on Taiwan related security issues,” and praised the U.S. government for the importance it places “on peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Taiwan has operated as a self-governing state formally named the Republic of China since the ROC regime fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists.
Taiwan has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, but Beijing has repeatedly called for “unification” and threatened to annex the island, whose 23 million residents regard themselves as Taiwanese, and, having democratized in the 1990s, have no wish to live under China’s authoritarian rule.
The United States, recognizes Beijing as the government of China, but does not endorse Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, and opposes using force to change the status quo. Washington is obliged by U’S. laws to sell arms to Taiwan to maintain its defense against China.