Two Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-34 military planes collided midair following a technical problem . One airplane crashed into the Japanese Sea, the other was able to reach the airbase on one engine.
The 2 occupants ejected. At around 11:00 Moscow time, the search and rescue helicopter rescued one of the Su-34’s pilots on the life raft at sea with adverse weather conditions. Rescued operations are still in progress.
Before the official confirmation from the Defense Ministry, Russian media issued multiple conflicting reports on the incident, citing sources with the military and emergency services.
A source told Interfax that one of the planes might have been able to stay airborne and reach the base on its own, while other reports suggested that only one plane crashed. Shortly after, the rescuers located the second pilot and brought him to safety as well.
“On 18 January, at 8:07 (Moscow time), while performing a planned training flight over the Sea of Japan, 35 kilometers from the coast, two Su-34 planes of the Far Eastern Air Defence Forces made contact in the air while manoeuvring,” reported the Department of Information and Mass Communications of the Ministry of Defence of Russia.
“The aircraft crews have ejected. An An-12 and two Mi-8 helicopters from the search and rescue forces are searching for the pilots in the area where they ejected. The planes performed the flight without ammunition,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
One of the pilots of the Su-34 bomber that crashed in the sea in Russia’s Far East has been found by the rescue crew, the Russian Defence Ministry added. The dramatic rescue mission saw one pilot found on a life raft in the sea, and could be picked up by helicopter.
“According to preliminary data, the accident occurred over the Tatar Strait. Two Su-34 jets vanished from radar screens close to the inhabited community of Nelma in the Sovetsko-Gavansky District. They presumably collided in mid-air,” the source said.
The aircraft were reported to have been ‘manoeuvring without ammunition’ when they collided.
The Su-34 is a modern medium-range fighter-bomber, adopted by the Russian Air Force in the mid-2010s. The plane is expected to replace the aging Su-24 bomber, which has remained in service since the 1970s. The Su-34 is able to carry a large variety of weapons, ranging from precision-guided bombs to assorted missiles.