Russian Su-30 Jet Crashes Off Syria Coast, Both Pilots Dead

A Russian Su-30SM fighter jet crashed off the Syria coast, killing two pilots on board, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed. 

The plane crashed over the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday morning, shortly after it took off from the Hmeymim airbase in Syria, the ministry added.  Pilots "fought to take the aircraft under control till the last minute," the Russian Defense ministry said. Both pilots died as the result of the incident.

"A Russian Su-30SM fighter plane crashed over the Mediterranean Sea at around 9:45 a.m. Moscow time [06:45 GMT] when gaining height after taking off from the Hmeymim airfield. Both pilots, which were fighting to save the plane until the last moment, died," the statement read.

The crash may have been caused by a bird hitting the engine, the ministry said, citing preliminary data. The aircraft was not shot down.

The last similar incident occurred in March, when a Russian An-26 military transport aircraft crashed during landing at Hmeymim airfield, killing the 33 passengers and six crew members on board.

As a reminder, Russian military aircraft have been 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.