TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s air force suspended flight training of new pilots on Tuesday after a jet trainer crashed killing its pilot, the defence ministry said, the second fatal accident the air force has experienced in 2022.
The ministry said the AT-3 jet crashed during a training mission from the Gangshan air base in the southern city of Kaohsiung and the body of the pilot had already been found.
The AT-3 is a domestically-developed advanced trainer that first flew in 1980 and can carry weapons.
Air force Chief of Staff Huang Chih-wei told reporters the aircraft had gone missing a few minutes after take-off, piloted by 23-year-old Hsu Ta-chun.
The aircraft was in good working order with no major maintenance issues reported over the past year, Huang added.
The air force has now suspended flight missions for its trainee pilots, he said.
President Tsai Ing-wen is “deeply saddened” by the loss and has instructed the Defence Ministry to investigate what happened, her office added in a statement.
In March, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashed into the sea off the island’s southeast coast, the second combat aircraft lost in three months. The pilot was rescued alive.
In January the air force suspended combat training for its F-16 fleet after a recently upgraded model of the fighter jet crashed into the sea, killing the pilot.
Last year, two F-5E fighters, which first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, crashed into the sea after they apparently collided in mid-air during a training mission.
In late 2020, an F-16 vanished shortly after taking off from the Hualien air base on Taiwan’s east coast on a routine training mission.
While Taiwan’s air force is well trained, it has been strained from repeatedly scrambling to see off Chinese military aircraft in the past two years, though the accidents have not been linked in any way to these intercept activities.
China, which claims the democratic island as its own, has been routinely sending aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence zone, mostly in an area around the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands but sometimes also into the airspace between Taiwan and the Philippines.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)