Iranian state media reported this week that two military pilots were killed when a fighter plane suffered a “technical fault” on the runway in southwestern Iran.
According to Iranian media, the incident involved the Iranian version of U.S. aerospace corporation Northrop’s F-5 fighter. The F-5 design dates back to the 1960s and is used primarily as an “aggressor aircraft” in training sessions by the U.S. Navy and Marines.
Iran acquired a number of F-5s when it received American support prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Iranians have since rolled out several “indigenous” designs based heavily on the F-5, including a two-seater variant called the Saeqeh introduced in 2015 that could fit the description of the plane involved in Tuesday’s incident. Iran claims it can produce and service these jets entirely on its own, but outside military experts seriously question those boasts.
Few details of the deadly “technical problem” were provided by Iranian sources. The incident reportedly occurred at a military airbase in the city of Dezful, about 270 miles from Iran and close to the Iraqi border. The slain pilots were identified as Kianoush Basati and Hossein Nami, rank unspecified. The jet had not yet taken off when the accident occurred.
On Thursday, Russia’s Sputnik News quoted an Iranian media source saying the deadly incident involved “abnormal activation of the ejection seats” in the two-seater F-5 fighter.
“I ask for God’s forgiveness for these two precious martyrs, exaltation and companionship with the pure Imams and patience and forbearance for their honorable families,” said Governor Qassem Soleimani Dashtaki of Khuzestan province, where Dezful is located.
The airbase has reportedly been shut down while the incident is investigated.
Iran suffered a string of unusual accidents this week, including its largest warship catching fire and sinking in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday, the same day a massive fire of unknown origins broke out at an oil refinery south of Tehran.