A Taiwanese F-16V fighter crashed into the sea off Dongshi on January 11, 2022.
According to the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, the aircraft, serial number 6650, was on a training mission when, about 30 minutes after takeoff, it disappeared from the radar near Chiayi Air Base, on the western coast of the island.
“The Air Force has now established a response center to launch search and rescue operations,” the Ministry said in a statement. Helicopters and ships are currently attempting to locate the pilot.
Chiayi Air Base houses the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, which was the first to receive the F-16V Block 72. The latest variant of the best-selling fighter features improved connectivity and an APG-83 SABR AESA radar system. In November 2021, Taiwan became the first nation to reach full operational capability with the aircraft.
The F-16 is the backbone of the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) fighter fleet. In 1992, as part of the Peace Fenghuang program, Taiwan placed an order for 150 F-16A/B-20 aircraft. Since then, the aircraft have been undergoing regular modernization. The fighter involved in the incident was one of those older airframes that had been brought to the Block 72 standard. In August 2020, another 66 new F-16 fighters were ordered from Lockheed Martin. In November 2020, the ROCAF lost an F-16 fighter jet in a crash.
The fighter fleet also includes 50 Mirage 2000s and around 100 F-CK-1s, an indigenous aircraft based on the F-16. Roughly 20 F-5Es are also used as trainers.
UPDATE: The ROCAF announced that combat training for the F-16 fleet was suspended pending a safety inspection.