An F-16V fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the Taiwanese Air Force fleet, has gone missing, with witnesses claiming that they saw the aircraft crash into the sea. A search and rescue operation is ongoing.

The plane went missing from Air Force radars on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after taking off from Chiayi Air Base in the south of the island. The government’s Rescue Command Centre said eyewitnesses had told them they saw the plane crash into the sea. 

President Tsai Ing-wen demanded that no efforts should be spared in the search and rescue operation and requested that officials work “to further clarify the cause of the accident,” her spokesman said. 

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Tuesday’s incident is the latest to befall the Taiwanese Air Force. Last year, two aging F-5E fighters, which entered service in the 1970s, crashed into the sea after an apparent mid-air collision during a training exercise.

In 2020, an F-16 disappeared during another training exercise, having taken off from the Hualien Air Base on Taiwan’s east coast.

The Air Force’s resolve has been repeatedly tested by numerous Chinese incursions in recent years. Beijing claims the island as an integral part of the country and has insisted it is willing to use force.

Chinese operations have often focused on the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

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