Vietnamese fighter jet missing, search continues

By VnExpress   June 14, 2016 | 11:50 am GMT+7

Search continues on Wednesday after Vietnam People's Air Defense - Air Force lost contact with a fighter jet flying offshore the central province of Nghe An yesterday.

One of the two missing pilots has been rescued by a fishing boat at 4:30 a.m., Senior Lieutenant Colonel Tran Cong Luc, Deputy Commander in Chief of Nghe An Border Forces, confirmed with VnExpress. One source in Nghe An Border Forces said the rescued pilot is Major Nguyen Huu Cuong. The status of the other pilot, Lieutenant Colonel, Tran Quang Khai, has yet to be confirmed.

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Vietnam People's Air Defense - Air Force has confirmed it lost contact with a fighter jet flying offshore the central province of Nghe An on Tuesday morning.

Major Nguyen Huu Cuong.

Major Nguyen Huu Cuong.

The jet departed from Tho Xuan Airport in central Thanh Hoa province for training in the sea. The Su-30MK2 disappeared from radar at 7:29 a.m.

Two experienced pilots are in the missing fighter jet according to a VnExpress source:

- Lieutenant Colonel, Tran Quang Khai, Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff, 923rd Fighter Regiment (43 years old), 

- Major Nguyen Huu Cuong, Deputy Commander of the 1st Squadron, 923rd Fighter Regiment (39 years old)

Deputy Minister of Defense has denied rumors that one pilot has swum to the shore.

Based on fishermen's accounts of seeing a falling jet and last contact point, the search team has narrowed down the location of the jet to around Hon Mat Islan (Cua Lo Town, Nghe An Province), around 20 km from the shore. The status of the two pilots has yet to be confirmed. 

Military Command of Nghe An Province and Vietnam People's Air Defense - Air Force have mobilized helicopters and fishing vessels for the search. 

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6:00 p.m.

Major General Do Minh Tuan said: "The search team has identified the exact location of the crashed fighter jet Su 30 based on many signs. Many vessels and planes are approaching for rescue. There's been no sign of the pilots."

4:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh said that Ministry of Defence and relevant agencies are pooling all the resources for the search. Deputy Minister Vinh denies rumors that one pilot has swum to the shore. 

4:00 p.m.

The search team has found traces of oil to the north east of Hon Mat Island (Nghe An Province). The area has been marked for rescue planes and vessels to approach. 

Around the same time, fishermen reported to have spotted debris thought to belong to the crashed jet to the north east of Hon Mat Island, 40 km away from Dien Chau Beach and 200km away from the jet's starting point. 

Deputy Chief of the Vietnam People's Army, Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan said he is on his way to Nghe An to oversee the search for the crashed jet. Search and rescue teams have not found any sign of the jet or the two pilots.  

Huynh Thanh Dien, Deputy Chairman of Nghe An People's Committee has just set up the Steering Committee for the jet's search and rescue headed by Dinh Viet Hong, Deputy Chairman of Nghe An People's Committee. The province will mobilize soldiers, fishery control and fishermen to work with Military Zone 4 forces under Ministry of Defense to search for the missing jet.

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Basic supplies are loaded onto the ship about to join the search. 

3:00 p.m.

Current temperature on Hon Mat Island is around 40˚C, wind blows South West at speed of 25 km/h, visibility is 10 km.

One leader of the Air Force Helicopter Regiment 916 of Division 371 said, about half an hour ago, four Mi Mi 171 and 172 helicopters of the regiment joined the search.

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Basic supplies are provided for the ship searching for the missing jet. 

2:50 p.m.

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Helicopter searching for the missing jet. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Binh

At noon, Military Zone 4 has established a command post in Cua Lo Town (Nghe An Province) to oversee the search. The Provincial Military Command has advised Nghe An People's Committee to set up a Steering Committee for the jet's search and rescue.

"We have sent three ships with 36 officers, soldiers to search around Hon Mat Island. There are more than 10 big fishing vessels and other forces too," said Colonel Tran Van Hung, Deputy Commander in Chief, Chief of Military Command of Nghe An Province.

2:40 p.m.

Three rescue boats belonging to Nghe An Border Squadron 2 on duty at the port waiting for the command to join the search.

Three rescue boats belonging to Nghe An Border Squadron 2 on duty at the port waiting for the command to join the search.

The car carrying basic supplies waits at the port to top up two ships that have been searching all morning upon their return

The car carrying basic supplies waits at the port to top up two ships that have been searching all morning upon their return

2:30 p.m.

Major General Do Minh Tuan, who is directly in charge of the search and rescue operation, said there's been no sign of the pilots. Besides information from fishermen who had reported seeing a falling plane, the team has narrowed down the location of the missing jet. However, the team is still working to identify the exact location.

The Su-30MK2 might have fallen to the sea east of Nghe An Province, around 20 nautical miles away from the shore. Both pilots on the jet are highly experienced.

02:10 p.m.

At least six ships are searching around Hon Mat Island, Nghe An Province. At the time Vietnam lost contact with the missing jet, wind speed in the sea was around 50-61km/h, equivalent to a tropical depression. 

According to an expert, during an emergency and depending on elevation, speed and flight direction, pilots have to pull the eject lever to escape. The plane cannot eject pilots automatically because this function could be dangerous.

Location of ships searching for the missing jet.

Location of ships searching for the missing jet.

2:00 p.m.

137 Squadron's ship searching for the missing jet near Hot Mat Island. Photo by VnExpress/CTV

137 Squadron's ship searching for the missing jet near Hon Mat Island. Photo by VnExpress/CTV


1:00 p.m.

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Pilot Tran Quang Khai (43) is missing. This photo was taken in 2013 when he was on a training session with Su-30. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung.

12:30 p.m.

Two pilots are in the missing fighter jet according to a VnExpress source:

- Lieutenant Colonel, Tran Quang Khai, Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff, 923rd Fighter Regiment (43 years old), 

- Major Nguyen Huu Cuong, Deputy Commander of the 1st Squadron, 923rd Fighter Regiment (39 years old)

Both are experienced pilots. 

10:35 a.m.

A team of Su-30 fighter jets departed from Sao Vang Airport in the central province of Thanh Hoa this morning. By around 8 a.m., one of the fighter jets disappeared from the radar. 

Major General Do Minh Tuan, Deputy Commander of Vietnam Air Defense - Air Force told VnExpress that the jet lost contact when it was training east of Nghe An central province. 

Lieutenant General Le Huy Vinh (Vietnam Air Defense - Air Force) and Tuan are directly overseeing the search for the missing jet. Helicopters have been mobilized to search the sea in Nghe An and Ha Tinh areas. 

Around 9 a.m., at least six ships are searching in sea, around Hon Mat island, Nghe An Province.

By 11 a.m., ships under military command, border guards, marine police, fishery control in Nghe An have joined the search.

Colonel Hoang Bui Hai, Deputy Commander of the Military Command of Thanh Hoa Province said his unit has been informed of the incident and is sending forces to help with the search. 

The pilots flying the Su-30 are from the 923rd air regiment. Set up in 1965, this is the second air force fighter regiment under the Vietnam People's Air Force established during the American - Vietnam War. 

The Su-30 is a Russian fighter jet and it's considered to have many advantages over the generation four of U.S. fighter jets.    

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Su-30MK2 during a training. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Nam

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