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April 30, 2017

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Air Force may soon resume fighter operations

TAIPEI--An Air Force official said Saturday that a suspension of the country's Mirage jet fighters after a fatal crash in France will likely be lifted next week at the earliest.

Taiwan grounded its fleet of Mirage fighters following a crash in France Wednesday, in which a Taiwanese pilot died while undergoing training on the warplanes.

Lt. Gen. Wu Wan-chiao, director of Air Force Command's Department of Political Warfare, said the French authorities have been decoding the black box of the crashed aircraft and will have initial results of their investigation in the next few days.

The Air Force will then conduct an examination of its Mirage jet fighters in accordance with the investigation's findings and will likely resume Mirage operations next week, he said.

The Air Force grounded all of Taiwan's Mirage jet fighters Thursday after Lt. Col. Wang Tung-yi, 37, died during training operations at the Luxeuil-les-Bains airfield in eastern France the previous day. The Air Force has also sent a team to France to help investigate the crash.

Wang's Mirage 2000-5 lost contact shortly after takeoff in the French airfield and crashed into a wooded area some 500 meters from a group of houses.

Taiwan bought 60 Mirage 2000-5 planes in 1992 from French firm Dassault Aviation.

Under the terms of the arms deal, Taiwan sends a pilot to France biennially on a two-year training program and France is responsible for any unintended accidents that occur during training operations, Wu said.

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