TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Confusion and controversy erupted Saturday after Taiwan media outlets reported that an air force mechanic posted photos of him and two civilian friends both inside and around an F-16 fighter jet.
The mechanic, surnamed Li, who held the rank of sergeant, has already been decommissioned for dereliction of duty and violating confidentiality, according to Apple Daily. Li failed to register his guest when she entered the military base as well as boarding the warplane.
Woman makes "K-pop girl group gesture in F-16 cockpit. Screenshot of original Facebook post.
Li's female friend posted two selfies online of her inside the cockpit of the fighter jet making "South Korean K-Pop girl group gestures," reported Liberty Times. Li claimed he wanted to help his friend’s “dreams come true” by letting her onto the plane.
Li also posted a couple photos of himself with a male friend hanging on the boarding ladder of the fighter jet.
Mechanic (right) posing with his friend (left) next to F-16 ladder. (Screenshot of Facebook post)
Shortly after the friend posted the photos, they quickly received a strong reaction online. The woman asked her pilot friend in a text message, “Should I take the photos down?” and told the pilot that “sitting inside the cockpit is controversial.”
Authorities from the Hualien Air Force base said that after an investigation they found that the photos were taken nearly 6 years ago, in April of 2013, shortly before the date he was discharged from the military, reported Apple Daily.
Media outlets reported the incident as a possible breach of classified information, such as the coordinates and radar technologies present on the dashboard of the plane, which would be potentially valuable to China, South Korea, and the United States, according to SETN.
The editor in chief of Military and Aviation News, Shih Hsiao Wei (施孝瑋), however dismisses claims that selfie captured reveals any military secrets, pointing out that F-15 and F-16 fighter helicopters were on display at the last Aviation Exhibition in Singapore. Guests were permitted to sit in the cockpit and take photos.
The incident is reminiscent of photos which surfaced on Facebook in 2015 of TV host Janet Lee (李蒨蓉) sitting in the cockpit of a AH-64E Apache, which lead to the pilot, Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng (勞乃成), being reprimanded and removed from his post by the Army Special Forces Command.
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Image from Air Combat Command)