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Search underway for two missing pilots whose warplanes disappeared off central Vietnam

Friday, April 17, 2015, 11:27 GMT+7
Search underway for two missing pilots whose warplanes disappeared off central Vietnam
This image shows the waters, off Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan Provinces in south-central Vietnam, where air traffic controllers lost contact with the two Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets.

Vietnam is conducting a search for two pilots who have gone missing since their Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets lost contact during a training exercise off south-central Vietnam on Thursday, an air force official has said.

>> Four soldiers die in military chopper crash in Vietnam Air traffic controllers lost contact with the pilots, Lieutenant Colonel Le Van Nghia and Captain Nguyen Anh Tu, both of Air Regiment 937, at around 11:00 am yesterday, Major General Do Minh Tuan, deputy commander of the Vietnamese Air Defense and Air Force, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. At that time, they were separately piloting two Russian-built fighter jets over the waters between Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan Provinces, about 15km north of Binh Thuan’s Phu Quy Island, Major General Tuan said. These two jets, which took off from the Thanh Son military airport that morning, might have collided with each other during their bombing drills, a source told Tuoi Tre. Reuters cited Nguyen Hung Tan, chief administrator at the committee for flood and storm prevention in Binh Luan, as saying the pilots had jumped out of the planes and parachuted. The Defense Ministry has directed the air and naval, coast guard, and border guard forces to deploy staff, planes, and boats to the waters around Phu Quy to search for the missing pilots and their aircraft. The island is about 56 nautical miles (over 100km) southeast of Phan Thiet, the capital city of Binh Thuan. Rescue forces scoured the waters around the island to search for the missing but they found nothing other than three reserve fuel tanks yesterday afternoon, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Oil slicks were detected in the waters, Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper quoted Major General Tuan as saying on Thursday evening. The incident is the latest in a series of accidents that have happened to Vietnam's air force in recent times. On March 26, 2015, three crew members and five passengers aboard a military helicopter were injured after the chopper crashed while trying to land on the same island. The crash occurred when the plane, a Russian-made Mi-8 chopper, was conducting a patrol flight.

On January 27, 2015, another military helicopter crashed in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh District after it departed from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, killing four soldiers on board.

The UH-1 chopper was en route to the southern province of Tay Ninh, 100km from Ho Chi Minh City, when it lost contact with air traffic controllers over the sky of the city’s Cu Chi District. On July 7, 2014, a third military copter hit the ground in a suburban area of Hanoi, killing 20 soldiers and injuring one.

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