Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft was mistakenly shot down by “friendly fire” during a training flight near the Telemba proving ground in Siberia almost two years ago, according to a leaked Russian government document.
The incident with MiG-31BM had occurred on 26 April 2017.
“A MiG-31 interceptor jet of the Eastern Military District crashed during a training flight near the Telemba proving ground, the Republic of Buryatia, at 12:05 Moscow time. Both crewmembers reportedly ejected themselves,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. “A search and rescue service helicopter was dispatched to the site of the incident.”
“The plane crashed at a proving ground in an unpopulated area. Both pilots ejected themselves. They were promptly evacuated. Their life is not in danger,” the Defense Ministry said.
But now, the authoritative Baza source reported that Russian Air Force MiG-31 fighter jet had been hit by an air-to-air missile launched from the second fighter, which also took part in the exercises.
“… the accident of the MiG-31 aircraft as a result of the crew’s violation of safety measures and missions for flight, expressed in the premature activation of the aircraft’s on-board radar station by the navigator and the unauthorized launch of the R-33 guided missiles by the commander of the MiG-31 fighter aircraft,” said in leaked government document.
It is necessary to clarify that the R-33 long-range air-to-air missile when launched, requires radar homing of the target, so the navigator turns it on before the launch of the rocket. In a combat situation, the commander will have to make a decision on the launch himself – without the sanction of the command being on the ground and often not seeing the target.
According to The Drive, the investigators concluded that the crew in the plane that got shot down had improperly followed procedures, allowing them to stray into the potential line of fire during the live-fire exercise. It also faulted aviators flying the other Foxhound for turning on their Zaslon-AM’s fire control function at the wrong time, cueing an R-33 missile right at their wingman. They further blamed the pilot for firing the weapon when this individual should have known they were not engaging a target drone.
The Russian Air Force refused to comment on speculation that the MiG-31 interceptor aircraft, which crashed in 2017, may have been “accidentally” shot down by another fighter jet.