Taiwan has grounded all of its remaining 57 Mirage fighter jets after a third warplane crashed off the island, an air force press officer said Thursday in the provincal capital of Taipei.
"Missions of all Mirage jets have been suspended, pending inspection. We are not sure when the fighters will be allowed to fly again," the officer said.
"French engineers and technicians stationed in the air force base will examine all 57 jets," he added.
Fighter Jet Crashes
The suspension came shortly after a twin-seater Mirage fighter crashed in sea to the north of the island on Wednesday, leaving one pilot dead and another still missing.
The French-made Mirage fighter jet of Taiwan has crashed off the northwestern coast of the island. The Mirage 2000 warplane took off for a regular flight at noon on Wednesday from a military base in Hsinchu, some 100 kilometres southwest of Taipei. About 21 minutes after takeoff, the plane disappeared from local radar screens.
One pilot was reported to have died after being transported to a hospital, while the other pilot is still missing. The cause of the crash is stil being investigated. Wednesday's Mirage crash was the third in Taiwan over the past three years.
The cause of the accident, the third involving a Mirage jet in two years, was not immediately clear. But air force authorities said the pilots reported the engine had stopped before losing contact with the control tower.
The two previous crashes were in October and December 1999. One pilot is still missing, presumed dead, after the crash in December.
France sold Taiwan 60 Mirage 2000-5 jets in a US$3.8 billion deal struck in 1992 despite strong protests from China's Central Government in Beijing.
Mirage 2000 is a multi-role combat fighter from Dassault Aviation of France. It has been operational with the French Air Force since 1984, and has been selected by Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Greece, India, Peru, Qatar, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.
Mirage 2000 fighters in operation with the French Air Force include: Mirage 2000C/B single-seater and two-seater for air defence; Mirage 2000N two-seater, designed for all weather nuclear penetration at low altitude and very high speed; and Mirage 2000D, which is an upgraded version of the Mirage 2000N, for automated bombing using conventional and laser-guided munitions.
Mirage 2000-5 is the latest of the Mirage 2000 family, and incorporates advanced avionics, new multiple-target air-to-ground and air-to-air firing procedures using the RDY radar, and new sensor and control systems. Orders for 110 Mirage 2000-5s have been placed by the air forces of France (37, with 20 delivered), Taiwan (60), Qatar (12) and Greece. Greece is to acquire 15 Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2 aircraft and upgrade ten of its Mirage 2000s to the same standard. The United Arab Emirates has ordered 30 2000-9 aircraft, a customised version of the 2000-5. India has ordered 18 Mirage 2000Ds.