Two U.S. Marine F/A-18C Hornets landed at Tainan Airport in southern Taiwan yesterday when one of the aircraft declared an in-flight emergency (IFE). The Department of Defense reported the two aircraft, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, were in transit to Singapore to take part in Exercise Commando Sling, a joint exercise with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

Under the command of Marine Air Group 11 (MAG 11), VMFA-323 is currently operating out of MCAS Iwakuni, the only U.S. Marine Corps installation located on the mainland of Japan. The squadron, normally based at MCAS Miramar outside of San Diego, has ten aircraft and approximately two hundred personnel at Iwakuni as part of a Unit Deployment Program.

The aircraft took off without incident and later in the flight, when one aircraft developed a mechanical issue, the decision was made to divert to Tainan Air Base. That facility is an emergency divert field approved by the Department of Defense. The Republic of China Air Force’s 443 Tactical Fighter Wing provided “assistance” with the recovery of the two jets, which landed at approximately 1:19PM local time.

An F/A-18C from VMFA-323 "Death Rattlers" taxis to depart Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport after a fuel stop.
An F/A-18C from VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers” taxis to depart Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport after a fuel stop.

Since Taiwan does not fly F/A-18s, American technicians needed to fly in to fix the aircraft experiencing he issue. The maintenance personnel arrived during the evening hours aboard a C-130 Hercules. With repairs complete, the American aircraft departed Tainan earlier today, but not without condemnation from the Chinese.

Ever-wary of relationships between Taiwan and the United States, a spokeswoman from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised China was concerned about the landing, stating it was in violation of an agreement preventing the United States from interfering with the internal affairs of China.

“We have taken note of the relevant report, and have lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “China urges the US to abide by the one China policy and the principles enshrined in the three joint communiqués between China and the U.S., prudently and properly handle relevant issues and prevent similar case from emerging again.”