Russia-China drill continues despite aircraft crash that kills 2
FBC-1 landing   /  Photo:

Russia-China drill continues despite aircraft crash that kills 2

21 Jul, 01:39 PM

A Chinese military aircraft crashed Sunday during preparations for a joint exercise with Russia, the People's Daily Online reports.

Both pilots of China's FBC-1 Flying Leopard are believed to have died during the crash at a training base in Horqin Grassland, Jilin province, the Global Times learned yesterday from a source close to the military.

Russian and Chinese troops are set to engage tomorrow in their third joint exercise since 2005. Russia dispatched 22 aircraft last week, including fighters and helicopters, Xinhua reported yesterday, adding that more than 40 Chinese military aircraft, including fighter-bombers, armed helicopters and transport planes will also participate in the drills.

"The aircraft did not pull up and plummeted into the ground before it could inflict a strike on a land target at an altitude of about 200 meters," the source said, speculating that pilot error may have been responsible. The Chinese military is still investigating the cause.

"The incident happened in just one to two seconds. I didn't see the two pilots eject," said a witness who asked to remain anonymous.

A ground exercise was going on when the crash occurred. Chinese Army transport helicopters quickly arrived at the scene, the witness said.

A woman with the PLA Shenyang Military Command, who only gave her surname as Yang, told the Global Times that audiences at the drill field were shocked.

"I stood in total amazement after the disaster and couldn't recover my senses," Yang said.

According to Yang, the plane was still on fire when she and others arrived at the scene 40 minutes later. An official at the Information Office of the Ministry of National Defense told the Global Times that they hadn't received any new information about the incident.

The five-day exercises, dubbed "Peace Mission-2009," are set to be held in Russia's Far East and at Northeast China's Shenyang Military Command, from Wednesday to Sunday.

About 1,300 personnel from the army and air force of each side will participate in the exercises, and Russia will also send an airborne assault unit, according to the MND.

The MND said that the exercise is not targeted at any particular third nation, but it is intended to show the abilities and resolution of both sides to jointly combat terrorists, separatists and extremists.

While the reason for the crash remains unclear, some media, such as Phoenix TV in Hong Kong, questioned the security and quality of China's FBC-1 Flying Leopard.

However, Peng Guangqian, a military strategist, told the Global Times that the modernization of the Chinese Air Force has gained considerable momentum in recent years, in terms of both aircraft development and aviation technology.

Wang Haiyun, former army, navy and air force attaché of the Chinese embassy in Russia, told the Global Times that the crash would not have an impact on the coming exercises.

"Such incidents are not uncommon in military exercises around the world," Wang told the Global Times. "The US and Russia have also experienced such tragedies."

Earlier this year, two Spanish Mirage F1 warplanes crashed during a training exercise, killing three pilots. Warplanes of Brazil and Indonesia have also crashed this year, resulting in 26 and 23 deaths respectively, reports say.

The FBC-1 fighter is China's own and is a two-seater, twin-engine fighter-bomber in service with the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force and the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

The number of FBC-1 fighters participating in the exercise hasn't been released by the military.

In 2005 and 2007, China, Russia and other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held similar anti-terrorism exercises under the name "Peace Mission."

Air Force strategist Dai Xu told the Global Times Monday that the reason for China and Russia holding the joint exercise was that "not only does the exercise show the capability of anti-terrorism, but it also consolidates and strengthens the bilateral strategic partnership."

"The recent military exchanges with foreign armed forces represent a new development with our peaceful foreign policy, and such cooperation on defending international security has increased mutual trust with other countries," Dai told the Global Times.

He didn't exclude the possibility of China and Russia carrying out similar military exercises in the future.

He also called on China to conduct more military exercises abroad if it were invited to.

Tags: China, war games,

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