A fighter pilot died Thursday morning after ejecting from his malfunctioning plane during a training exercise over the ocean, Taiwan's air force said in a statement hours later.
Soon after takeoff, engine troubles prompted 29-year old pilot Chu Kuang-men to abandon his F-5E jet and fall into the ocean, where his unresponsive body was recovered around 8 a.m. Thursday.
"We are still investigating the exact cause of the crash," air force chief of staff Huang Chih-wei told reporters at a news conference in Taipei.
At the time of his death, Chu was taking part in a routine drill - one of many rigorous training sessions Taiwanese military, navy and air force crews must undergo several times a year under the constant menace of mainland China.
But these drills have come with a number of fatalities. Chu's aircraft is the second to crash in the last three months, following the deaths of two crew members in a helicopter crash in mid-July.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a 'lost province' to be integrated into the People's Republic of China and has been ramping up pressure since the 2016 election of Prime Minister Tsai Ing-wen, who opposes reunification.
"Our men and women in uniform have the will and ability to defend Taiwan and are not intimidated by PRC intrusions in our airspace," the Taiwanese leader said earlier this month.
Still, these intrusions are taking their toll. So far in 2020, the democratic country has scrambled its jets twice as often as the year before, which is asking a lot of Taiwan's aged F-5E aircrafts.
The F-5 family of fighter planes was first developed by American aircraft manufacturer Northrop in the 1960s. By 1972, technological advances spawned the F-5E Tiger II variant that is still in use by Taiwan.
The air force is not the only branch of the armed forces stuck with antiquated supplies and bad luck. Taiwan's military has roughly 1,200 tanks and all are more than 40 years old with records of frequent brake failures.
The navy is not much better off. In July, a pair of naval servicemen died and a third was left with permanent brain damage in a landing drill gone wrong.