A Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighter jet has crashed into the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Jableh city in Latakia, Syria on Thursday morning.
The two pilots onboard the twin-seat aircraft died in the accident. Pilots “fought to take the aircraft under control till the last minute,” the Russian Defense ministry said.
The aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from the Russian Khmeimim Air Base (Hmeimim Air Base), located south-east of the city of Latakia in Syria. Russian agencies quoted unnamed ministry officials as saying preliminary investigations show the crash might have been caused by a bird strike.
The Su-30SM is the first warplane in the Su-30 family of “Flankers” to be lost by the Russian military.
Russian military aircraft are stationed in Syria as part of a deal between Moscow and Damascus. In 2017, Russian and Syrian authorities agreed to prolong their presence in the country after President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of a significant number of troops from Syria. Khmeimim Airbase near Latakia and the naval site in the port city of Tartus have been handed over to Russia for 49 years with an option of automatic extension.
In March, a Russian An-26 military transport aircraft crashed during landing at Khmeimim Air Base, killing the 33 passengers and six crew members on board.