The debris of a missing Taiwan Air Force F-16V fighter jet has been found off the coast of western Taiwan, but its pilot remains unaccounted for, according to the island’s National Rescue Command Centre.
The single-seat jet took off from a base in Chiayi in southern Taiwan for training on Tuesday and disappeared from radar screens 28 minutes later.
National Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng visited the accident site in Chiayi on Wednesday, pledging not to give up the search for the 28-year-old pilot.
A Taiwan Air Force spokesperson said the cause of the crash remained under investigation, but that the weather had been fine and visibility good when the jet crashed into the sea on Tuesday, adding that there was no sign of the pilot having ejected before the accident.
The aircraft, which was built in 1998, had been refitted and upgraded with US assistance in November as part of a modernisation program for all 64 of Taiwan’s F-16V fighter jets.
The recommissioning of the F-16V fighter jets came amid soaring tensions between Taipei and Beijing late last year following China’s multiple incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in early October.
Taiwan’s air force has grounded all F-16V fighters since the incident.