Two Taiwanese Air Force F-5E jets drown in the Pacific Ocean after mid-air collision

A Taiwanese air force pilot has been killed and another is missing after their fighter jets disappeared in a suspected mid-air collision off the island’s southern coast, officials said.

The two F-5E jets disappeared from radar at about 3pm some 2.6km off the coast of rural southern Pingtung County, the National Rescue Command Centre said.

It added that the fighters, each with one pilot on board, crashed into the sea off the island’s southeastern coast after they apparently collided in mid-air during a training mission.

One of the pilots was found unconscious in the sea but could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Rescuers were still searching for the remaining pilot.

The crash on Monday was the third such incident in the past half-year, at a time when the island’s armed forces are having to intercept Chinese aircraft on an almost daily basis.

Another F-5 crashed in October, killing the pilot. The following month a much more modern F-16 crashed off Taiwan’s east coast, whose pilot also died.

In January last year, Taiwan’s top military official was among eight people killed when a helicopter carrying them to visit soldiers crashed in a mountainous area near the capital Taipei.

While Taiwan’s air force is well trained and equipped, mostly with US-made equipment, it is dwarfed by China’s.

Beijing views the democratic island as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has become markedly more hostile towards Taiwan and last year Chinese jets made a record 380 incursions into its defence zone, with some analysts warning that tensions between the two sides are at their highest since the mid-1990s.