One pilot dead after two F-5E fighter jets collide in Taiwan

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March 22 (UPI) — One pilot is dead and a second pilot remains missing after two Taiwanese F-5E fighter jets collided during a training mission.

The Taiwanese military deployed one Black Hawk helicopter and three ships to conduct a search and rescue mission after military hit each other at sea, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported Monday.

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Local authorities said the fighter jets first disappeared from radar in an area about 1.6 miles east of Xuhai Fishing Port in Pingtung County, Taiwan.

The exercises conducted off the coast of Taiwan on Monday began at 2:30 p.m., when four F-5E fighter jets left Taitung’s Zhi-Hang Air Base, Taiwan News reported. One pilot manned each F-5E fighter jet.

When two of the four jets collided, pilots with the surname Pan and Lo ejected themselves from their respective aircraft.

Lo was found unconscious at 4:22 p.m. at sea and rushed to a hospital where he died, the report said. Pan remained missing late Monday.

Taiwan has previously reported other accidents involving the F-5E fighter jet. Another F-5E fighter jet crashed during exercises off the coast of Taitung in October, killing one pilot, according to Taiwan News.

Taiwan has increased the frequency of military training and has raised defense spending in response to Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone.

In January, Taiwanese troops deploying tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill that could prepare the military against a potential attack from China.

Taiwan’s security may have been a topic of discussion during the U.S.-Japan Cabinet-level meeting between ministers last week.

Nikkei Asia reported the United States and Japan agreed to closely cooperate on Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

The discussion was held between Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, the report said.

Japan is not ruling out deploying its self-defense forces to protect U.S. warships and planes if a cross-strait war is declared and China attacks Taiwan, according to Nikkei Asia.