Friday, 5 October 2012

Taiwan Grounds Jet Fighters After Crash in France

Taiwan’s air force said Oct. 4 it has grounded all its Mirage jet fighters after one of its pilots died while conducting a training mission in France.

The order will be lifted when the French side clarifies the cause of the fatal crash of Lt. Col. Wang Tung-yi on Oct. 3, said an air force official.

The Mirage 2000-5 went down in the eastern district of Froideconche, the French military’s press office said in a statement that did not give the cause of the accident.

Froideconche Mayor Henri Passard said the crash site — about 10 kilometers (six miles) from an air base — had been sealed off by rescue services.

The accident happened just two months before the 37-year-old was due to complete a two-year training mission in France, according to Taiwanese authorities.

The French air force said Wang was an experienced pilot with 1,300 hours of flying time under his belt and was the only Taiwanese on training in France.

Taiwan purchased 60 Mirage 2000-5 planes in 1992 from French firm Dassault Aviation, with the last delivered in 2001, in an arms deal that upset the island’s former bitter rival China.

Four of the jets sold to Taiwan have crashed in separate accidents, leaving 56 in service.

Beijing still claims sovereignty over Taiwan and is fiercely opposed to the island’s development of its military capacity.

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