Losses and Aviation Safety

Russian Su-35 pilot who shot down Russian Su-30 will be charge in court with criminal conduct

Major Vasily Savelyev, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) Sukhoi Su-35 pilot who shot down a RuASF Su-30 on Sep. 22, 2020 will face military trial.

Major Vasily Savelyev, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) Sukhoi Su-35 pilot who shot down a RuASF Su-30 on Sep. 22, 2020 will face military trial.

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant in fact, on Oct. 21, 2021 his case was transferred to Tver garrison’s military court. The day of the trial has not yet been assigned.

Savelyev can face up to seven years in jail since because, in accordance with the Aricle no. 351 of the Russian Criminal Code, he is accused of violating the rules of operation and combat use of a military aircraft.

The incident took place in the Tver region, approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles) northeast of Moscow, during a routine training flight where two Su-35S and one Su-30M2 fighter jets were practicing combat maneuvers at high and medium altitudes.

The exercise involved Su-35s being attacked by the Su-30, followed by a counterattack, Kommersant reported.

The aircraft featured gun cameras that the pilots could activate by engaging the same button of the real gun. The cameras could capture the mock kills scored during the drill.

As explained by Aerotime, during the exercise, one of the Su-35s flown by flight leader Savelyev, fired a burst of 30 mm rounds from its GSh-30-1 cannon.

After five shells heavily damaged its right wing, the Su-30 became uncontrollable. Both the crew members were forced to eject.

The Main Military Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation found Savelyev guilty.

According to protocol the entire weapons control system has to be deactivated: the Su-35 has to be prepared for the exercise by disengaging the gun and engaging the gun camera. Moreover, the pilot has to fire his gun in a safe direction before starting combat maneuvers.

Savelyev violated the rules of operation because he did not perform the check, the Committee reported.

Savelyev appealed the decision, stating that the ground crew had to disengage the weapons system, as well as physically remove the belt with the rounds from the autocannon. He also said that the exercise was intended to be as close to the real engagement as possible, which ruled out performing any additional checks.

Noteworthy this was not the first time that a Russian fighter erroneously shot down another Russian Aircraft.

On Apr. 26, 2017 in fact a MiG-31 from Russia’s Eastern Military District crashed during a training flight near the Telemba proving ground, the Republic of Buryatia.

At that time, the Russian Ministry of Defense did not explain why the aircraft crashed.

Both crew members reportedly ejected and a search and rescue helicopter was dispatched to the site of the incident.

In 2019 emerged that the twin-engine fighter was brought down by another MiG-31 which fired an R-33 air-to-air missile mistakenly.

A report appeared on Baza claimed that “… the accident of the MiG-31 aircraft was the result of omissions in the activities of officials in the organization of the LUT (flight tactical exercises – Approx. Ed. precluding their mutual falling into the zone of permitted launches of guided missiles R-33)…”

The report continued: “… the accident of the MiG-31 aircraft as a result of the crew’s violation of safety measures and missions for flight, expressed in the premature activation of the aircraft’s on-board radar station by the navigator and the unauthorized launch of the R-33 guided missiles by the commander of the MiG-31 fighter aircraft…”

In short, the MiG-31 mistakenly shot down its wingman.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov Russianplanes.net via Wikipedia and Russian Ministry of Defence

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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