US F-18 fighters depart Taiwan following completion of repairs
Two American F-18 fighters left Taiwan Friday afternoon after making an emergency landing at a Taiwanese Air Force base two days earlier due to a mechanical problem in one of the aircraft, Taiwan’s Air Force said.
U.S. maintenance personnel arrived at Tainan Air Force Base in Southern Taiwan late Thursday and completed the work Friday morning. The two fighters left for their base in Okinawa after repairs were completed, an Air Force official said.
The fighters left at 1:12 p.m. after passing safety checks, said Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shouhe ( ).
Mark Zimmer, spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, also confirmed that the F-18s had left.
The C-130 transport plane that carried the American personnel and aircraft parts from Japan to the Tainan base “is scheduled to depart in the coming hours,” Zimmer told CNA early Friday afternoon.
Taking off from Japan, the fighters from U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 ( VMFA 323) were en route to Singapore to participate in Commando Sling, an air-to-air exercise with Singapore, when one of them had “a persistent engine oil pressure warning light,” a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps said in Washington.
The F- 18 pilots made an emergency landing at the Tainan base on April 1 after requesting permission to land because of the glitch.
The Air Force’s 443rd wing assisted the fighters with their landing and provided necessary logistical assistance, Taiwanese military officials said.
The AIT and the U.S. State Department have expressed gratitude for Taiwan’s assistance.
The landing of the F-18s was a rarity because the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and its military aircraft do not use air bases in Taiwan.
China views democratic Taiwan with its 23 million people as a renegade province, to be taken by force if necessary, and objects any military interaction between the island and the United States.