A US C-130 transport plane arrived at the Tainan Air Force Base from a US Marine Corps base in Japan yesterday evening, carrying service crew to repair one of the two US F/A-18 jets that made an emergency landing in Tainan on Wednesday.
The repair crew arrived just hours after Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) told a regular news briefing in Beijing that China had made solemn representations to the US about the US jets landing in Taiwan.
“We demand that the US strictly abide by the one China policy and the three joint communiques between China and the US and to deal with the relevant issue prudently,” she said.
Earlier in the day, the two F/A-18s had been moved into hangars belonging to Air Asia Co (亞洲航空), which provides aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services at the Tainan Airport.
Meanwhile, US Department of Defense officials confirmed the two F/A-18 Hornets were from US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323), currently based at Marine Corp Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.
They said the planes landed in Tainan as a precaution and there had been no injuries to the crew or damage to the aircraft.
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A statement by the US Marine Corps’ press office late on Wednesday said: “A persistent engine oil pressure warning light precipitated the precautionary emergency landing.”
It also said that the Tainan Airport is an US-approved divert airfield and that the jets had been en route to Singapore to participate in the “Commando Sling” exercise with the city-state’s air force.
However, according to a source in Washington, the F/A-18s were providing escort and protection for a reconnaissance mission by an EA-6B Prowler, a tactical jamming aircraft used by the US Navy and Marine Corps.
An EA-6B Prowler can carry out armed reconnaissance, electronic jamming operations and aerial surveillance tasks, and provides defense against anti-ship missiles.
The Washington source said that due to the sensitivity of its mission, the EA-6B did not land in Tainan with its escort jets, but returned to its base in Japan.
The source said the escort mission took the F/A-18s and the EA-6B on a route along the air defense identification zone over the waters off the east coast of Taiwan and it was headed to either Singapore or the Philippines.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Mark Zimmer said the US C-130 transport plane, carrying US maintenance personnel and aircraft parts, landed at 8:34pm.
The maintenance crew then headed straight to the hangars to begin repair work.
An AIT team has been sent to Tainan to provide assistance, Zimmer said.
It was not immediately clear how long it would take to repair the aircraft.
A Republic of China Air Force official said the US maintenance crew was expected to stay overnight to carry out the repairs.
The F/A-18s will depart Taiwan as soon as the repairs are completed and the aircraft pass safety tests, the official added.
Air Asia is now owned by Aerospace Corp (台翔航太), but during the Cold War it was an aircraft service unit for Air America, which was created by the CIA for covert operations in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
The company is certified for maintenance and servicing of various aircraft and has links with the US aviation industry, and its location renders the Tainan Airport a US-approved divert air field.
Additional reporting by CNA
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