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Taiwanese pilot killed, another missing after fighter jets collide

A Taiwanese air force pilot was killed and another was missing on Monday after their fighter jets disappeared in a suspected mid-air collision off the island’s southern coast, officials said.

The two F-5E jets disappeared from radar around 3pm some 2.6km off the coast of rural Pingtung county, the National Rescue Command Centre said.

They were among four F-5Es that took off some 30 minutes earlier for a routine training mission, the centre said, adding helicopters and coastguard ships had joined the search.

One of the pilots was found unconscious in the sea but could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at hospital.

Rescuers were still searching for the remaining pilot.

Police confirmed they found a seat with parachute attached on a local highway.

Taiwans ageing fighter fleet has suffered a string of fatal accidents in recent years as the islands air force is kept under constant pressure by China.

Beijing views democratic and self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has become markedly more hostile towards Taiwan and last year, incursions by Beijings fighter jets reached record highs.

The incursions force outgunned Taiwan to regularly scramble its jets and keep pilots trained on a round-the-clock war footing that takes its toll on ageing aircraft and those flying them.

In October, an F-5E pilot was killed when his plane crashed off the islands eastern coast.

A month later, Taiwan temporarily grounded all F-16 fighters for safety checks after one went missing during a training exercise.

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