Syria

Russian fighter jet crashes near its aircraft carrier in Mediterranean, US officials say

MiG-29 fighter jets in 2012.

MiG-29 fighter jets in 2012.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

A Russian fighter jet crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after launching from its aircraft carrier near the coast of Syria Sunday, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

Three Russian MiG-29 fighter jets took off from their Soviet-era aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, and flew in the direction of Syria. Once airborne, one of the Russian jets appeared to have mechanical difficulties and turned around in the direction of the aircraft carrier.

The Russian jet splashed down in the water while attempting to land. A Russian rescue helicopter picked up a parachute and the pilot, who'd bailed out safely, Russian defense officials said.

The MiG-29 was designed in the late-1970s to counter the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 and F-16. It entered service in the early 1980s.

The news of the crash came a day after state media claimed Russia was preparing its Tu-95 and Tu-160 long-range bombers for imminent strike missions in Syria.  

The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” and Tu-160 “Blackjack,” according to their NATO call signs, have been operating in Syria since 2015 and are based at Engels Air Force base in southern Russia near Kazakhstan.  The Blackjack is a supersonic variable-sweep wing long range bomber and more advanced than its 1950s-era Bear counterpart, which is propeller driven.  

Last week, Fox News was first to report Russia was close to launching a new round of airstrikes in Syria from the aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean and southern Russia using long range bombers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews