Half an hour after taking off from Chihhang Air Force Base in Taitung on March 22, 2021, two Taiwanese F-5 Tiger II fighter jets crashed into the sea. The two aircraft were part of a flight group of four on a regular training mission about 2.6 km away from Pingtung, in the south of the island.
The crash was seemingly due to a mid-air collision. Both pilots were able to eject from their aircraft. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was dispatched for search and rescue. One of the pilots was recovered but later died of his injuries, the other is still missing.
Chihhang Air Force Base also known as Taitung Air Force Base houses the 7th Flight Training Wing of the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF). It is composed of three squadrons of F-5 Tiger II fighter jets, including an aggressor squadron.
It is the second incident involving a Taiwanese F-5 in less than six months. In October 2020, an F-5E fighter jet crashed off the coast of Taitung, southeastern Taiwan. The fleet of F-5E trainers was temporarily grounded following the crash. A month later, the ROCAF also lost an F-16 fighter jet in a crash.
Due to an increase in Chinese military activity around the island, the Taiwan military has been under increased pressure in recent years. Throughout 2020, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew about 380 sorties into the country’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) ‒ the highest number since 1996.
Hours after the crash on March 22, 2021, the Ministry reported yet another Chinese incursion. Two PLA J-10 fighter jets were identified in the southwest of the island. A combat air patrol was dispatched for an interception.