Pilot killed as Su-25 military jet explodes near Vladivostok

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Soviet Su-25, pictured in 1989

A Sukhoi Su-25 military jet has exploded in midair near Vladivostok, Russia, killing the pilot. The Russian Air Force said the plane was 140km (90 miles) from the port city on the Pacific coast.

The plane, a single seat twinjet used to support ground forces, was on a training mission when the explosion occurred. Russia has grounded all their Su-25s while the crash is investigated by order of the air force's commander. The investigation will be conducted by a special commission of the Ministry of Defence.

Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, spokesman for the Air Force, said "Today, on March 20 at 3:33 Moscow time (0:33 GMT), a Su-25 aircraft crashed during a training flight near the Chernigovka airbase, 143 kilometers from Vladivostok." The crash site is in mountainous terain, and the Far Eastern Union of Air Force and Air Defense's investigational commission has flown in and is on-site.

Uncomfirmed reports suggest that immediately prior to the crash the pilot reported an engine fire, followed by a loss of contact. Interfax reports that an anonymous source involved with the investigation said "The head of flight control reported that he saw a flash under the fuselage of the strike plane. More than likely one of the weapons exploded."

Drobyshevsky offered an alternative explanation. "According to preliminary reports, the plane developed technical problems during live firing exercises," he said.