A Taiwan air force training jet crashed in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, on a training mission on Tuesday morning, killing the pilot, according to the island’s military. The locally developed twin-seat AT-3 trainer took off from the air force base in Kangshan, near Kaohsiung and crashed into a paddy field nearby three minutes later, the air force and Kaohsiung City Fire Department said. It was the fourth AT-3 crash in 10 years, and the 15th since some 60 trainer jets were commissioned by the air force in 1984. Eleven pilots and cadets have been killed during the 15 crashes. In March, the air force grounded its Mirage 2000 fighter jets after one of them crashed into the sea , the second fighter jet loss after an upgraded model of the F-16 crashed into the sea in January. “The Air Force Academy was having a training mission on the morning of May 31, and Lieutenant Hsu Ta-chun was flying solo in the mission. The plane took off from Kangshan at 8.03am and was missing at 8.06am about 5 nautical miles from the base,” air force chief of staff Huang Chih-wei said. The academy and the military immediately started searching for the plane. The fire department later reported that the plane had crashed in a paddy field in Kangshan, Huang said. He said the pilot’s body was found at the crash site. Huang said there was no radio report from the pilot of unusual conditions before the crash. He also said this was the pilot’s second solo flight in the jet and he had been accompanied by a flight instructor for three take-offs and landings before flying alone. The fire department said it had received a report of a plane crash at 8.11am and sent rescuers to the crash site. “By the time we got there, flames from the crash had almost died down and we found a man with no sign of life,” a department official said, adding that rescuers saw plane wreckage scattered in the field. It is not immediately known what caused the accident, and the island’s defence ministry said it had already set up an investigation team to try to establish the cause. China military drill ‘a warning’ to Taiwan in wake of Biden defence pledge Huang said the air force had ordered all AT-3 training missions suspended and training jets grounded for inspection. Huang said the pilot Hsu, 23, had logged 116 hours and 20 minutes total flying hours and 24 hours experience on the AT-3. Huang said visibility was clear at the time of the crash and the plane was in proper condition and had not received major repairs in the past year. In recent years, Taiwan – viewed by Beijing as its territory that must be brought back in control, by force if necessary – has faced growing military threats from Beijing’s PLA, which has staged war games nearby and repeatedly sent warplanes to the island’s air defence identification zone. In its latest fly-bys, 30 PLA warplanes flew into the southwest of the zone on Monday, the second largest this year since 39 were reported in January, according to the defence ministry. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she felt deeply sorry about the death of the pilot and had ordered the defence ministry to swiftly find out the cause of the crash and offer Hsu’s family any necessary help. Developed by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation of Taiwan in collaboration with American aircraft manufacturer Northrop in 1978, the first aircraft made its maiden flight in 1980. The low-wing configuration trainer was designed with a tricycle undercarriage, tandem-seat cockpit, and twin turbofans on either side of the fuselage. Taiwan indicates US won’t dictate defence plans The air force has decided to replace the planes, which have been in service for 38 years, with the Yung Yin (Brave Eagle) advanced trainer jet, also developed by the corporation. The air force has ordered 66 of the advanced trainer jets, which can be switched to combat mode in the event of a potential attack by the People’s Liberation Army. The corporation started delivering the first aircraft to the air force last year and the rest are expected by 2026.