Air Force unveils F-5 fighter jet with upgraded ejection seat

01/21/2022 05:57 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right) poses beside an F-5 fighter jet during a tour of inspections on Friday. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right) poses beside an F-5 fighter jet during a tour of inspections on Friday. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) An F-5 fighter jet belonging to the 7th Flight Training Wing and its new ejection seat was showcased at an Air Force base in Taitung County during a visit by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Friday.

Taiwan ordered 70 Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seats from the United States for the Air Force's F-5 fleet in March 2021 after military experts recommended the replacement of the current ones, which they said used an outdated design.

The recommendation was made during an investigation into the cause of a mid-air collision of two F-5E jets in March 2021 that left two pilots dead.

A first batch of the ejection seats was received by Taiwan late last year, and the F-5 on display Friday was one of the first aircraft to be refit.

The Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seat displayed in a hangar. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022
The Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seat displayed in a hangar. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022

According to the Air Force, it plans to upgrade its fleet of 16 F-5Es -- a single seat version of the F-5 jet -- and 27 F-5Fs -- a twin-seat model -- with the new seats by the end of this year.

The Mk 16 is a cutting-edge ejection seat that comes with advanced safety features such as the Personal Survival Pack (PSP) and is compatible with many existing canopy jettison systems, the Air Force said.

It uses a passive leg restraint system that can automatically retract the pilot's lower limbs and provide protection during ejection, and enables pilots to eject safely even at zero altitude and velocity, the Air Force said.

Also, when the seat makes contact with water, it can automatically detach the harness of the deployed parachute from the ejected seat to prevent the pilot from drowning, according to the Air Force.

Though the F-5 fighter with the new Mk16 ejection seat was highlighted Friday, an indigenous advanced jet trainer (AJT) that was recently delivered by local aircraft maker Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) and another F-5 fighter jet also welcomed the president.

Tsai was there as part of a tour of military bases ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins at the end of January.

The Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seat installed in an F-5. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022
The Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seat installed in an F-5. CNA photo Jan. 21, 2022

The Air Force took delivery of two AJTs last year, and another eight are scheduled to be delivered in 2022. AIDC plans to deliver a total of 66 AJTs to the Air Force by 2026.

(By Wang Chin-kang and Ko Lin)

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