A combination of faults on Russia’s carrier and an unexpected total engine shutdown led to a Russian pilot ditching his fighter in the Mediterranean Sea last week, read a translation of a Monday Russian press report.
The Mikoyan MiG-29K that crashed on Nov. 13 was part of a trio of fighters sortied from Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov for operations over Syria, USNI News reported last week.
Following the mission – armed reconnaissance runs over targets near Aleppo, USNI News understands — the fighters headed back to the carrier to land, read a translation of a report from Gazeta.ru.
“Upon completion of their flight missions, the fighters were returning to the aircraft carrier. In this situation, landings were to occur with an interval of three-to-four minutes,” read the translation.
“The first fighter landed without incident.”
However, the second fighter snapped one of the arresting wires during landing with the hook eventually catching on reserve arresting cable, the report said.
With the deck fouled from the cable break, the third MiG – which was on approach closely behind the second fighter – was told to circle back into a holding pattern while the crew of Admiral Kuznetsov cleared the deck for the next landing.
“While in the holding area, both of the fighter’s engines shut down,” read the translation.
“A preliminary explanation is that they were no longer receiving fuel. ln such situations, a fighter falls like a rock, and the pilot has only one option — to eject.”
NATO ships monitoring the carrier offered assistance that was declined by the Russians, a NATO official told USNI News last week.
Following last week’s crash, the Russians continued operating fighters from Admiral Kuznetsov and used planes from the carrier to strike targets held by rebels opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced last week.
The Kremlin has attempted to improve Russian carrier aviation over the last few years after decades of atrophy.
“A few years ago there were stories they were largely contractors as pilots,” Eric Wertheim — naval analyst and author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World — told USNI News on last week.
“They’ve been trying to pass that skill on but there’s not the ability to do that because the pool is small and they’re not a lot of facilities available.”
A land-based facility to train Russian naval aviators that was set to open in 2015 has been continually delayed.
The carrier – technically an aircraft carrying guided missile cruiser – is part of a four ship Russian naval force that deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean that includes cruiser Peter the Great and two Udaloy-class guided missile destroyers. The surface action group is also operating with one of Russia’s newest frigates — Admiral Grigorovich – that launched cruise missiles as part of the Russian offensive against targets in Aleppo.
As of Monday morning, the ships were operating south of Cyprus, a U.S. defense official told USNI News.