TAIPEI (CNA) – Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said Thursday that Taiwan will seek the assistance of neighboring countries in the search for a Mirage-2000 fighter jet that went missing off northeast Taiwan two days ago.
With the search yet to yield any results, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) is planning to expand the search area, Feng told lawmakers during a legislative hearing.
He said Taiwan will request the Japan Coast Guard and neighboring countries to help locate the missing aircraft and pilot in recognition of the fact that the first 72 hours of any rescue mission are crucial to saving the life of personnel in distress.
When asked about rumors that the pilot could have defected to China, Feng said he found such suggestions infuriating, adding that it was incredible people might think a R.O.C. air force pilot would defect to China.
“I will not tolerate such remarks,” he said.
The single-seat Mirage 2000, serial number 2040, piloted by Captain Ho Tzu-yu (何子雨), disappeared from radar tracking 34 minutes after take-off from Hsinchu Air Base on Tuesday evening during a regular training exercise at sea, according to Air Force Command.
The aircraft was about 90 nautical miles (167 km) north-northeast of Keelung when it vanished from radar screens at 6:43 p.m., the Air Force said.
The search has been underway since but no oil slick or wreckage has been located, the MND said in a statement Thursday.
It added that the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard Administration (CGA) sent helicopters, a Cheng Kung-class frigate and additional vessels to an area near Pengjia Islet on Wednesday afternoon when an intermittent distress signal was received apparently from the pilot, but have so far failed to locate him.
Meanwhile, the CGA said that as of 8 a.m. Thursday it had dispatched 162 personnel, four frigates and two cutters to join the search. •
By Fan Cheng-hsiang, Hsieh Chia-chen, Lin Chang-shun and Evelyn Kao