A Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) Su-22UM-3K ‘Fitter-G’ trainer aircraft crashed in Nghệ An province in central Vietnam on July 26, killing both its pilots.
According to local reports, the aircraft departed the Sao Vàng Airfield, located in Thọ Xuân District in the neighboring Thanh Hóa Province, for a routine training mission at around 11.16 am local time but lost contact at 11.35 am.
The aircraft then reportedly crashed into thick jungle near Dua village of Nghia Yen commune in the Nghia Dan district of the Nghệ An province around 300 km (186 miles) south of Hanoi. The reports added that the jet was broken into pieces after crashing with a big explosion, and that the search and rescue mission has been initially hindered by heavy rains and rough terrain.
Images on state media showed a large plume of smoke rising from dense mountain jungles where the plane went down.
The two pilots who were killed in the crash were identified as Lt. Col. Khuat Manh Tri (40) from Hanoi, Deputy Head and Chief of the Staff of Regiment 921, and Sen. Lt. Col. Pham Giang Nam (46) from Thai Binh province, Head of the regiment’s flight team.
Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, Deputy Director of the General Department of Politics of the Vietnam People’s Army told that the Minister of National Defence has fulfilled procedures to recognize them as martyrs. According to Nghia, they were well-experienced pilots. The cause of the incident is under investigation.
The crashed jet trainer, with serial no: 8551, reportedly belonged to the 371st Air Force Division, 921th Fighter-Bomber Regiment based at Hanoi Noi Bai Airport.
Su-22UM3K is the export version of the Soviet-made Subkhoi Su-17UM3 (In-house OKB designation: S-52UM3, NATO reporting name: Fitter-G) trainer aircraft equipped with a Lyulka AL-21 turbojet engine. The Su-17UM3 is in-turn the trainer variant of the Sukhoi Su-17 ‘Fitter’ variable-sweep wing fighter-bomber.
Since 2010, the VPAF lost at least eleven MiGs and Sukhoi’s in crashes.