Russian Su-30SM Fighter Jet Crashed Off The Syrian Coast Killing Its Crew

Russian Air Force Su-30s have long been a fixture in Syria, but just days ago, the Russian Navy also deployed Su-30s to the war-torn country. 

Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria
Marina Lystseva—Marina Lystseva/TASS

Details are emerging regarding the crash of a Russia Su-30SM multi-role fighter—a modernized derivative of the Flanker family of jets—that occurred just off Syrian shores. According to Russian media sources, the aircraft came down in the Mediterranean shortly after takeoff from Russia's Hmeymim Air Base which is located south of the port city of Latakia. Sadly, both crewmen onboard the jet died in the crash. 

Images have started to show up on social media depicting a rising cloud over a disturbance in the waters off Jabla. We cannot confirm the authenticity of these photos at this time. 

The coastal town sits just over a mile from the southern end of the runways at Hmeymim Air Base. 

Google Earth

Russian officials are saying the pilots heroically fought to get the jet under control before the crash and that it may have been due to a bird strike or ingestion, which does happen from time-to-time.

Marina Lystseva\TASS via Getty Images

Russian Air Force Su-30s seen at the base on April 22nd, 2018.

Russia's master air base in Syria has hosted a steady contingent of at least four Su-30s since Moscow's intervention in the Syrian civil war began in the fall of 2015. In recent weeks, the base has seen an influx of higher-end air power even though Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over ISIS and announced a major drawdown of forces in December of 2017. 

Since then, the Russian forces—and those seemingly of Russian origin—have suffered significant losses. More frequent asymmetric attacks on the country's primary air base in Syria have also been observed

Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Russian Air Force Su-30 seen at the country's master air base in Syria in 2016. The type has been present in the country since Russian tactical aircraft started to arrive there in the fall of 2015.

It is worth noting that the Russian Navy has forward deployed Su-30s to Syria recently in what seems by all indications as a push to provide more robust airborne anti-ship capabilities to the Eastern Mediterranean. ISIS and anti-Assad rebel forces don't have a Navy, so it's impossible for Moscow to spin these capabilities to be related to the Syrian civil war. Russian Air Force fighter aircraft were first seen carrying anti-ship missiles while flying out of the base during the ramp up to what became U.S.-led trilateral cruise missile strikes on Syria on April 13th, 2018.

Less than two weeks later, Russian Navy Su-30s were first photographed at the base. One of those images appears at the top of this article. Just two after that image was taken, on April 24th, 2018, Russia sunk a decommissioned patrol ship off Syrian shores using Su-30SMs firing anti-ship missiles. The exercise seemed was clearly part of Russia's new initiative to make it clear to peer state competitors that they have advanced anti-access maritime capabilities of the aerial kind now deployed to their base in Syria. Also, if you were wondering, no, Russia's Su-30s are not carrier capable. 

At this point, we still don't know what Russian service the aircraft involved in today's mishap belonged to. 

We will update this post as more information comes available. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com