Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the single-seat F-16 disappeared from radar screens over the Pacific Ocean just two minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base, on the self-ruled island’s east coast, at 6:05 p.m. local time.
A search for the jet’s pilot, Col. Chiang Cheng-chih, is continuing, according to a statement from the office of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai told reporters Wednesday morning that all of the island’s F-16s would be grounded pending an investigation into the crash.
Despite the grounding, Tsai said Taiwan’s forces would remain ready to defend the island.
“The defense and combat readiness tasks must not be relaxed a bit to ensure national security,” she said.
It also launched a new US-backed maintenance center for the fighter jets in the central city of Taichung.
Military aviation analyst Peter Layton, a former Australian Air Force officer now with the Griffith Asia Institute, said Wednesday that the latest crash was not necessarily the result of a mechanical problem.
“Maybe they (the pilots) have been flying all days and no night training,” he said. “This is more common then you might think. The real world often impedes training,” he said.
Tuesday’s accident was the second involving a Taiwanese fighter in a month after one of its aging F-5 planes crashed in late October, Reuters reported.
CNN’s Steven Jiang, Shanshan Wang and Shawn Deng contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Reuters.
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