President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed his sorrow yesterday over Wednesday’s crash of an F-5 jet near Penghu that killed two pilots, and urged the Ministry of National Defense to investigate why such crashes have become more frequent.
“There have been four or five plane crash accidents since I took office, affecting the army, air force and navy. I hope the ministry will figure out if the accidents were caused by mechanical problems or improper operations,” Ma said.
He made the remarks while presiding over the promotion of new Air Force commander Lei Yu-chi (雷玉其) at the Presidential Office.
Ma said he had demanded the military replace old equipment and enhance its training to prevent similar accidents.
“Every pilot has gone through lengthy training, and every pilot has a family. Such losses are a great sorrow for us,” he said.
The F-5F twin-seat jet took off from Cingcyuangang (清泉崗) air base in Taichung on Wednesday morning for a live fire exercise on a reef in Penghu, but disappeared from radar screens shortly afterwards.
Air Force Command Headquarters said Taiwan has about 60 F-5s, development of which began in the 1950s. F-5s have been involved in 30 accidents, including Wednesday’s, in which 32 pilots have been killed.
Ma reiterated his determination to fight corruption in the military, and promised to look into cases while reforming the system to prevent a recurrence.
Ma asked the ministry in April to report to him every three months on its investigations into corruption allegations.
“For military men, honor is more important than their lives. What we want is for those who were treated unjustly to be able to clear their names, while treating those who were found guilty according to the law,” he said.
Ma said he would also ask the military to continue its equipment upgrades and be prepared for war despite the improvement in cross-strait relations.