A pilot ejected safely and was rescued by a rescue helicopter after a Russian fighter jet crashed Monday into the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Syria.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said the accident happened as the pilot tried to land shortly after launch from the Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The MiG-29Ks jet had mechanical issues after takeoff. It turned around and began returning to the aircraft carrier. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, where the pilot was trying to land on, is stationed off the Syrian coast. The Defense Ministry informed that the pilot was safe and ready to continue with his work, as reported by The Telegraph. Authorities did not have to cancel flight operations.

Russian MiG-29Ks jet
Russian MiG-29Ks jet. Image credit: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/

Early Monday, Pentagon officials reported indications that a Russian plane had been lost, according to Fox News. The Pentagon uses airborne sensors and thermal-imaging satellites to track aircraft activity conducted by Russia and Syria.

Russia’s carrier-based air wing apparently deployed to the Syrian coast as part of a combat operation and a training flight. The MiG-29Ks had just been added to the inventory.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, which was designed to carry dozens of fighter-bombers and helicopters, is one of Russia’s warships recently deployed near the coast of Syria and national media outlets reported over the weekend that operations had begun from there as part of efforts to bolster the country’s air campaign over Syria. The warship’s flotilla sailed from Russia via the English Channel in October.

Reports also said that the jets could play an important role in the final blitz to help Syrian troops retake control of Aleppo, as reported by The Washington Post. Social media users confirmed the reports and footage showed MiG-29s over Idlib province.

The MiG-29Ks dates back from the Cold War

Land versions of the MiG-29 were built in the 1980s but the MiG-29K underwent limited testing during the Cold War, and Russia only produced a few of them in the early 2000s. Compared to its older variants, the MiG-29Ks were recently added to the Kuznetsov’s carrier wing, and it actually boasts modest improvements as it was specifically built to handle carrier operations at sea.

The Kuznetsov is often considered an old aircraft carrier that tends to have mechanical issues particularly because jets like the MiG-29K and Su-33 are not capable of taking off fully loaded with munitions and fuel. This problem is due to the aircraft carrier’s ramped deck. Moreover, it does not have a catapult system.

The Russian carrier’s contingent of Su-33 air-to-air fighters and different models of helicopters are helpful for search and rescue, as well as for support with air traffic control. It also has a handful of MiG-29K/KUBs aboard the Kuznetsov aside from the MiG-29Ks.

Source: The Washington Post