Two Russian Air Force Su-34 fighter-bombers collided Friday during a training mission midair 44 km off the coast over the Sea of Japan leaving
two crew members dead and another one still missing, officials said.
The Defense Ministry said the two Su-34 jets, each with a crew of two, collided while maneuvering and went down 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the shore.
Both crews of 2 occupants ejected, pilot and navigator. At around 11:00 Moscow time, a search and rescue helicopter rescued one of the Su-34’s pilots found in his life raft with adverse weather conditions. He was in good condition, according to the ministry.
Following a massive search involving several rescue ships and aircraft, two other crewmen were found dead, the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
The search for the fourth missing pilot is continuing despite strong winds.
Earlier, the Defense Ministry said two crewmembers were rescued, but later retracted the report and said that just one crewman has been found alive.
The ministry said the jets were not carrying any weapons.
The Su-34, dubbed “Fullback” by NATO, is one of Russia’s most capable aircraft — able to engage targets on the ground and in the air — and has been used extensively in Syria.
The 45 ton, Mach 1.8-capable Russian Su-34, designed to carry up to 8 tons of weaponry, has a tactical radius of 4,000 km, and a flight ceiling of 18,000 meters.
The plane can also be equipped with up to three additional fuel tanks, allowing it to fly 8 hours without refueling.