ANKARA (AA) - Taiwan on Wednesday grounded its F-16 fighter jets after one of its aircraft went missing off Taiwan's eastern coast, local media reported.
Vice Defense Minister Chang Che-ping said all 142 of the island nation's F-16s deployed at its air bases in Hualien and Chiayi were grounded for thorough checks, while Taiwan's military scrambled to find the plane and its pilot, according to Central News Agency.
On Tuesday evening, an F-16 disappeared from the radar just two minutes after taking off as part of a nighttime training exercise.
Joint air and sea efforts to find the missing pilot were launched immediately and are ongoing.
Taiwanese military chief Huang Shu-kuang visited the northern Hengshan Military Command Center to support the search mission and monitor Chinese military movements, the agency quoted Chang as saying.
However, no irregular activity from China has yet been observed since the F-16 went missing, he added.
In recent months China's air force has aggressively maneuvered in areas near Taiwan and its aircraft have repeatedly entered sections of Taiwan's air defense identification zone, according to the agency.
China claims Taiwan is a "breakaway province," while Taipei has insisted on its independent since 1949. At least 16 countries recognize it as such and have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid