• The F-16V jet crashed into waters Tuesday 30 min after taking off
  • The 28-year-old pilot, who joined the force last year, is missing
  • Analysts believe Beijing managed to wear off the Taiwanese air force 

A day after Taiwan's most advanced F-16V fighter jet plunged into the ocean, analysts said the crash may have been caused by an "exhausted" Taiwanese air force crew pushed to the brink by China's frequent incursions.

Besides Beijing’s war of attrition, outdated pilot training and pressure on young pilots to step up may have contributed to the tragedy, reported South China Morning Post, quoting regional military analysts.

The F-16V jet crashed into waters east of Taiwan soon after take-off from Chiayi Air Force Base Tuesday. The aircraft, an upgraded version of the US-made F-16A/B fighter jet, disappeared from radar screens 30 minutes after take-off during a routine training mission.

The wreck of the jet was found Wednesday but there is still no sight of the pilot. As per initial reports, there is no indication that he ejected safely. The 28-year-old pilot, identified as Captain Chen Yi, only joined the air force last year, said reports.

Following the crash, Taiwan had grounded all 140 of its F-16 fighter jets. The self-ruled island launched the first squadron of the fighters just two months ago.

Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong told South China Morning Post that the crash showed "Beijing’s war of attrition to exhaust the Taiwanese air force was having an impact."

Ben Ho, an airpower researcher from the military studies program at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, also thinks the frequent PLA "encirclement flights" could have exhausted the island’s air force crews.

This may have forced them to lower the level of maintenance. "While the avionics and sensors of the
F-16Vs were new, the airframes dated to the late 1990s. Aging aircraft need more and specialized maintenance to be airworthy," Ho told South China Morning Post.

The lack of pilots to undertake such missions too contributed to the crash. Lu Li-Shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy, told the news outlet less experienced pilots were having to step up.

"The accident should be blamed on the lack of pilots available to meet the demands of the growing number of fighter jets Taipei plans to buy from the United States – young pilots are being pushed to step up training," Lu said.

Other analysts too believe that Taiwan's training program may have failed to train its pilots to handle upgraded jets like F-16V that boasts new flight control systems.

Amid this, China again sent warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) Tuesday. Local media reports said this was the ninth such intrusion this month.

Taiwan's defence minister has described military tensions with China at their highest in more than four decades, after record incursions by Chinese warplanes
File image. Taiwan's defense minister has described military tensions with China at their highest in more than four decades, after record incursions by Chinese warplanes. TAIWAN DEFENCE MINISTRY / Handout