Fighter jets collided before deadly crash off central Vietnam, official confirms

By Phan Hau, TN News

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 A file photo of Vietnam's military fighter jets Su-22 during a training mission. Photo: Tan Tu

Initial findings showed that the two fighter jets which crashed into the sea off Vietnam's central coast last month had collided into each other, a military official told the press on Friday.
The incident off Binh Thuan Province on April 16 left both of the pilots dead. 
Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, Deputy Chief of Staff of Vietnam People’s Army, said the collision of the Soviet-era Su-22 jets was probably caused by the pilots' techniques. The fighter jets were flying in the same direction, he added. 
However, for more details regarding the aircraft's heights and speeds when the crash happened, relevant agencies will have to examine the black boxes, he was quoted as saying in Tuoi Tre newspaper.
By Thursday, rescuers had retrieved the boxes along with the bodies of the pilots. 
Last month Lieutenant Colonel Le Van Nghia and Captain Nguyen Anh Tu, both with the southern division of the Air Force, took off from Ninh Thuan Province for a training mission. They both lost contact just a few minutes later.
Fishermen spotted the jets crashing into the sea 10-15 kilometers from Phu Quy Island.
Mid-air collisions, Tuan said, are not rare during training or performance when aircraft are flying too close.
In fact, similar accidents already happened in the world, he said, citing the latest crash that took place during a practice session at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition in Malaysia in March.
Two single-engined turboprop aircraft with Indonesian Air Force's aerobatics team reportedly collided before crashing. Their pilots, however, managed to eject and land safely with their parachutes.
"It is like road transport where sometimes a collision happens due to drivers' techniques," Tuan was quoted as saying.
Last month's accident was the fourth crash involving the Vietnamese Air Force since last July.
On March 26 a military helicopter, also produced during the Soviet era, crashed when it was about to land on Phu Quy Island, but everyone on board survived.
Two earlier crashes involved a Russian Mi-171 and US-built UH-1, and killed 24 military personnel.

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