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Taiwan air force chief joins F-5 test flight after fatal crash


image copyrightMinistry of National Defence

The head of Taiwan’s Air Force has joined the first test flight of a fighter jet following a fatal crash.

All of Taiwan’s ageing F-5 jets were grounded and inspections carried out after a pilot was killed last month.

“I believe F-5s are safe to fly,” Air Force Commander Hsiung Hou-chi said, the Military News Agency reported.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out taking it back by force, leading to tension in the island’s air space.

In early October, Taiwan’s defence minister said the air force had been dispatched almost 3,000 times since January to monitor or intercept Chinese aircraft.

Air Force Commander Hsiung flew in the two-seater jet on the 40-minute test flight on Saturday.

“I took part in the test flight to show our countrymen that the F-5s are reliable and to demonstrate the will of our Air Force service members to defend our sky,” he was quoted as saying by the Military News Agency.

He added that the jets, which are more than 40 years old, are still used in 26 countries worldwide.

Last month’s crash involved a single-seat version of the F-5.

The jet was on a routine training mission on 29 October when it experienced a mechanical issue shortly after take off.

The Focus Taiwan news website reported that the investigation into the crash was ongoing, with bad weather preventing the aircraft from being retrieved.

Tensions with China have risen in recent years following the election of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president.

media captionPresident Tsai Ing-wen tells China to “face reality” and show Taiwan respect

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Taiwan “has not been a part of China”, prompting an angry response from China’s foreign ministry.

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