China Sends 13 Aircraft Toward Taiwan After Island Grounds Some Fighters

On the same day that the Taiwanese Air Force grounded several fighter jets after a reported training accident in which one crashed, the Chinese military allegedly sent just over a dozen aircraft in the direction of Taiwan, the island's defense officials said Monday.

Thirteen aircraft were seen flying toward Taiwan Monday morning, Reuters reported, down from a significantly larger mission that saw 39 jets approach the island in January. The January mission was the largest such mission conducted by China since over 50 aircraft were used for another similar mission last October, Newsweek reported.

Taiwan's government has complained of similar missions in recent years, when Chinese jets have approached the island that the Chinese government claims as part of its territory, according to Reuters.

Many have feared that China could use Russia's invasion of Ukraine as cover to conduct a similar invasion into Taiwan, or use the same tactics as Russia by understating the scale of the invasion and claiming there is some force within the area they are fighting against.

Earlier Monday morning, a training exercise involving Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter jets led to one pilot being forced to turn back toward the base where the drill began because of a mechanical issue. The pilot eventually had to eject over the ocean, and the plane crashed into the water, Reuters reported.

The pilot was rescued safely from the water by a helicopter, the military reported. The military also stated that the Mirage fleet would be temporarily grounded while an investigation into the mechanical issue was conducted, but other fleets of jets are still operational and available.

The Chinese government has never publicly stated that it does not plan to use military force to officially retake the island. China claims Taiwan as Chinese territory while the U.S. and other countries support Taiwan's continued efforts for independence.

In addition to military equipment and weapons that the U.S. and other countries have provided to Taiwan in recent years, as of January, several aircraft carrier strike groups were near Taiwan, poised to defend the island from a potential Chinese attack.

The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense tweets when aircraft enter the airspace it monitors, and these tweets have shown that anywhere from one to nine aircraft have been entering the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on a daily basis in the months since January's operation.

Also in January, the Taiwan Air Force reported another training accident that killed a pilot after an F-16 fighter jet crashed into the sea, which also led to the fleet being grounded while an investigation took place, according to Reuters.

Update 3/14/22, 12:40 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

Taiwan China Aircraft Air Force
Chinese aircraft reportedly flew in the direction of Taiwan on Monday. Above, Taiwanese sailors salute the island's flag on the deck of the Panshih supply ship after taking part in annual drills at the Tsoying naval base in Kaohsiung on January 31, 2018. Mandy Cheng/AFP via Getty Images