Russia grounds Tupolev-22M3 bombers after crash kills 3

Russia has grounded all Tupolev-22M3 bombers, above (Photo credit: Russian defence ministry’s press service), until the end of an investigation into the cause of Tuesday’s deadly air crash near Murmansk region, a law enforcement official told Tass.

A Tupolev-22M3 bomber crashed during a training exercise while trying to land amid a sudden snowstorm at an air base near Olenegorsk in Murmansk region.

Three crew members died and one survived. An initial inquiry suggested pilot error and bad weather might have led to the crash. Snowstorms in Murmansk region located near the Arctic Circle are impossible to predict and develop rapidly.

Interfax said citing a defence ministry press release that the Tupolev Tu-22M3 made a “hard landing” and was destroyed after getting caught in a snow squall. A fire broke out at the crash site.

Initial reports said two crew members died on the spot and two pilots were taken to a medical facility. One of the pilots died while undergoing treatment taking the death toll to three.  

Tuesday’s crash follows a collision between two Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers during a training exercise over the Sea of Japan in Far East Russia on Friday. One of the planes crashed into the sea and the two pilots ejected. They were later rescued.

The Tupolev Tu-22M3 is a supersonic long-range bomber, which can carry nuclear air-to-surface missile. The model has been operational since the late 1980s.

The aircraft that crashed in the Murmansk region had no weapons on board, a ministry statement said.

The air base near Olenegorsk is operated by the long-range command of the Russian Air Forces and is one of several where Tu-22M3s are deployed.