An advanced Russian fighter plane has crashed in Syria, killing both members of its crew.
The Russian military said the two-seater Sukhoi-30SM jet crashed on Thursday morning shortly after takeoff from its Khmeimim airbase in Latakia province.
The defence ministry in Moscow was quoted as saying the two crew members had tried in vain to save the plane until the last moment.
“According to preliminary information, the reason for the aviation disaster could have been birds getting into the engine,” the RIA news agency cited Moscow as saying. “The plane was not struck by any projectile.”
The Sukhoi-30SM is one of Russia’s most advanced fighters and performed its maiden flight in 2012. It has been used in Syria to launch air-to-ground missiles at rebel targets and to escort attack jets and strategic bombers.
The crash brings Russia’s official military losses in Syria to 86.
The most recent acknowledged military loss came when a transport plane crashed on landing at the Khmeimim airbase in March, killing all 39 people on board.
Russian nationals are also regularly reported to be serving as paid mercenaries in Syria and taking on dangerous missions that often lead to casualties.