Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) apologized yesterday for the crashes of two air force fighter jets within five days of each other earlier this month, but added that pilots need public support to regain their confidence as soon as possible.
Kao was responding to questions from lawmakers about the availability of the nation’s air arsenal after the crashes of an F-16 and a Mirage 2000-5.
“I’m more than willing to offer an apology to the public for the mishaps and will assume full political responsibility for them,” Kao told lawmakers.
He said the most important thing is to ascertain the cause of the crashes.
“Special task forces have been formed to investigate each crash,” Kao said, adding that the early signs show mechanical failure to be the most likely cause of the accidents.
On May 15, a single-seater F-16 of the 455th Tactical Fighter Wing crashed into waters southwest of Chiayi. Its 26-year-old pilot managed to eject to safety.
The other incident involved a twin-seater Mirage 2000-5 belonging to the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing based in Hsinchu, which crashed off the western coast shortly after takeoff on May 20. Again, its two pilots were able to bail out safely.
Despite the crashes, Kao assured lawmakers that all Air Force aircraft on active duty are in good and serviceable condition.
“The availability rate of our air arsenal for active service meets the nation’s requirements,” Kao said.
US-built F-16s, French-made Mirage 2000-5s and locally developed Ching-kuo IDF jets form the backbone of the nation’s air defenses.
Asked about progress of the military’s plan to procure new warplanes that would constitute a third generation of aircraft for the Air Force, Kao said the procurement of US-built F-35 jets is a long-term target.
“Before this goal is realized, we have other projects to complete to meet our defense needs,” Kao said.
Previous media reports have said Taiwan is looking to buy an F-35 variant with short takeoff and vertical-land capabilities.