A Republic of China Air Force F-5F fighter jet crashed into a military base in Hukou (湖口), Taiwan on 11 May 2007. The accident killed the two Taiwanese crewmen and three Singaporean soldiers who were part of an unrelated unilateral training stint on the ground. Another eight Singaporeans were injured, with one sustaining serious burn injuries.
Han Kuang exercise
The fighter jet, designation ROCAF F-5F 5371, was conducting a training flight in a rehearsal for Taiwan's Han Kuang 23 military exercise (漢光演習) in the following week. The twin-seat fighter jet took off with three other aircraft from an airbase in Taitung County; it crashed 30 minutes later during a simulated low-altitude attack while executing an "anti-parachuting" drill.
Crash at military base
At 9.38 am, the fighter jet crashed at Hukou Army Base about 50 km southwest of the capital Taipei. The base houses the 542nd Armour Brigade of the 6th Army Corps, Republic of China Army, it also hosts a visiting training detachment from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Eyewitnesses say the F-5F aircraft failed to pull up in time, and crashed into the base.
The Taiwan Ministry of National Defense reported that the pilot apparently attempted to steer the plane away from residential area before crashing into a storeroom within the military compound where the Singapore detachment was stationed. Several soldiers were in the storeroom at that time.
Due to the lack of space in Singapore, the island state has been conducting unilateral military training in Taiwan as part of a cooperative agreement. Singapore is not involved in the Han Kuang exercise.
The accident killed five people. The two crewmen and another two soldiers on the ground were killed during the initial crash. Another soldier subsequently succumbed to his wounds 17 days later. The Taiwanese crewmen are pilot Major Wei Tzu-yuan (魏子淵), age 34, and co-pilot Captain Chan Chia-chun (詹嘉鈞), age 27. They had 1500 and 700 hours of flight experience respectively. They belong to the 45 Fighter Squadron, 737 Tactical Fighter Wing, Republic of China Air Force, based in Taitung Airbase.
The initial two Singaporean fatalities are 3rd Sergeant Isz Sazli Bin Sapari, age 19, and Private Fan Yao Jin, age 23. Both were full-time national servicemen (NSFs). The third fatality is Lance Corporal Chow Han Min Calvin, age 19. LCP Chow had 50 per cent body surface burns and respiratory burns, and was airlifted back to Singapore for further treatment. However, LCP Chow's condition worsened and he died in the Singapore General Hospital on 28 May 2007 at 6.37 am.
One Singapore soldier remains critically injured. 23-year-old 3rd Sergeant Ramakrishnan Karthigayan from the 6th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (6 SIR) suffered 45 percent total body surface area burns. He, along with LCP Chow, was treated at the Taoyuan Tri-Service General Hospital before being evacuated to Singapore on 12 May to receive treatment at the Singapore General Hospital Burns Centre. As of May 2007, Ramakrishnan remains in a critical but stable condition. Seven other Singaporeans had minor injuries and received outpatient treatment.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. Taiwan local media pointed out that the age of the F-5F fleet as a possible factor. The Ministry of Defense announced that it has grounded all F-5F fighters, pending the outcome of an investigation into the accident.
According to United Daily News, pilot Wei was last heard shouting "Up!" before the accident occurred. Due to security reasons, radio communication was minimized during the exercise. The aircraft did not have a flight data recorder (black box), but was equipped with Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) that could be useful in the investigation.
On 14 May 2007, air force major-general Liu Chen-wu released preliminary findings of the investigation at the Legislative Yuan. He said that during the simulated attack, the fighter jet had deviated from its planned route. In his effort to lock in to ground targets, the pilot might have flown too low. The pilot chose not to eject in order to steer the plane away from built up areas and avoid heavy casualties. Liu said that they "chose to sacrifice their lives and divert the plane to the military compound." He did not rule out mechanical problems causing the aircraft to be stalled because the pilot could have pulled out safely if he had activated maximum power and afterburner.
There are reports that visibility was low at Hukou during the exercise.
A day after the incident, Su Tseng-chang, the premier of the Republic of China, ordered the air force to speed up an overhaul of warplanes. He made the order just before announcing his resignation following his defeat in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's primary to pick a candidate for the Republic of China presidential election, 2008.
Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced that the five-day Han Kuang exercise would be carried out as scheduled despite the crash. This prompted legislator Hsueh Ling to call for defense minister Lee Jye to step down.
Legislator Hsueh noted that seventeen F-5E/F jet fighters have been lost in accidents since 1988.
- ↑ SAF Overseas Incident – Update 1, Ministry of Defence, Retrieved on 11 May 2007
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Taiwan premier orders warplane overhaul following another crash". International Herald Tribune, Associated Press. 12 May 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/12/asia/AS-GEN-Taiwan-Fighter-Crash.php.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ken Teh (11 May 2007). "Taiwanese fighter jet crashes; 2 pilots, 2 Singapore soldiers killed". Channel NewsAsia. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/275618/1/.html.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Jet crash in Hukou kills 4 soldiers, official say". Taiwan News. 12 May 2007. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071214140042/http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=448211&lang=eng_news&cate_img=49.jpg&cate_rss=news_Society_TAIWAN.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "Premier orders air force to speed up warplane overhaul". The Taipei Times. 13 May 2007. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2007/05/13/2003360638.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 "SAF Overseas Incident". Ministry of Defence (Singapore). 11 May 2007. http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/news_and_events/nr/2007/may/11may07_nr.html.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "Four dead in Taiwan fighter jet crash". Boston Globe. 11 May 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080605233554/http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2007/05/11/four_dead_in_taiwan_fighter_jet_crash/.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 "One more NS man dies following Taiwan jet crash". Channel NewsAsia. 28 May 2007. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/278792/1/.html.
- ↑ "Legislators call for Lee's resignation over crash". The China Post (Taiwan (ROC)). 13 May 2007. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/archives/taiwan/2007512/109418.htm.
- ↑ (Chinese)"戰機墜毀 4死9傷". Apple Daily (Taiwan). 12 May 2007. http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/jw!R0rINyeCRUQvmLNApoB6/article?mid=7037.
- ↑ "SGT Isz Sazli Sapari given full military funeral". Channel NewsAsia. 12 May 2007. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/275766/1/.html.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 "Bodies of Singaporeans sent home". The China Post (Taiwan (ROC)). 13 May 2007. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/archives/taiwan/2007513/109489.htm.
- ↑ "Two servicemen injured in Taiwan jet crash back in Singapore". Channel NewsAsia. 12 May 2007. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/275786/1/.html.
- ↑ Lee U-Wen (14 May 2007). "Soldier's parents' plea: No more overseas duties". Channel NewsAsia. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/276029/1/.html.
- ↑ (Chinese)"空軍：戰機失事 人機都有問題". United Daily News (Taiwan (ROC)). 15 May 2007. http://udn.com/NEWS/NATIONAL/NAT1/3845672.shtml. [dead link]
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 "Official: Taiwanese pilot in fighter jet crash deviated from route". The China Post (Taiwan (ROC)). 14 May 2007. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/latestnews/2007514/46125.htm.
- ↑ "Claims Taiwan pilots sacrificed their lives". ABC Radio Australia. 14 May 2007. http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/news/stories/s1922738.htm. [dead link]
- ↑ Stephen Che (16 May 2007). "F-5F had lagged behind other jet fighters before crash". The China Post (Taiwan (ROC)). http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/archives/taiwan/2007516/109752.htm.
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