The F-16V, the most advanced type in Taiwan’s fleet, went missing from radar screens after taking off from the Chiayi Air Base in southern Taiwan for a training mission over a coastal firing range.
Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) suspended combat training for its F-16 fleet after an upgraded F-16V crashed into the sea on Jan. 11, 2022 in the latest of a series of accidents, Reuters reports.
The F-16V, the most advanced type in Taiwan’s fleet, went missing from radar screens after taking off from the Chiayi Air Base in southern Taiwan for a training mission over a coastal firing range, the defence ministry said.
Chiayi is the home of the ROCAF’s 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, comprised of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Tactical Fighter Groups. The 21st Tactical Fighter Group is the unit that has fully converted to the F-16V. According to the ROCAF, in November 64 upgraded F-16V were already in its inventory.
This is out of a force of 141 F-16s, which are the survivors of 150 aircraft delivered in the late 1990s comprised of a mix of F-16A single-seat and F-16B twin-seat Block 20 aircraft.
According to Defense News, the upgrade, codenamed Phoenix Rising program, features the installation of Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-83 scalable agile beam radar, a new mission computer and upgraded electronic warfare equipment like the Terma AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management systems, the Rockwell Collins-Elbit Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, which allows off-boresight targeting of adversary aircraft during air combat, and a newer identification friend-or-foe system.
The ROCAF officially commissioned its upgraded F-16V Fighting Falcon multi-role jet fighters into service, with a ceremony at Chiayi on Nov. 17, 2021.
Instructions to spare no efforts in the search and rescue mission and “to further clarify the cause of the accident”, were issued President Tsai Ing-wen by her spokesman said.
According to the government’s Rescue Command Centre, witnesses had seen the aircraft crash into the sea and helicopters and ships were searching for the pilot.
Moreover, as noted by Alert 5, the photo featured in this post (available in this video from TTV News), was taken shortly before the F-16V’s impact with the ocean, shows the jet had been inverted and the speed brakes had been deployed.
ROCAF Inspector-General Liu Hui-chien said the aircraft had only recently been upgraded to the “V” version, with new weapons systems and avionics.
He added that combat training for the F-16 fleet has now been suspended.
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.
Last year, after having apparently collided in mid-air during a training mission two F-5E jet fighters crashed into the sea off the southeast coast.
While the ROCAF is well trained, it has 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.
Photo credit: screenshot from TTV News video