Chinese military authorities confirmed on Monday that two pilots had died over the weekend after the plane they were flying crashed during a drill in Shandong province on Sunday afternoon.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) said a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter plane crashed on mudflats in Rongcheng city, Shandong province, during a drill, on Sunday afternoon.
The official announcement was only made after photos and video of the crash were uploaded on Weibo and shared widely.
According to Xinhua, both pilots died in the accident. The cause of the crash remains unknown, as does the cause of the pilots’ deaths as both had ejected from the plane before it struck the ground, according to the Global Times.
The twin-engine, Russian-made, Soviet-era fighter aircraft was introduced to China’s military in the 1990s. The PLAAF now has about 300 Su-27s in different versions.
The Su-27 fighters have given the Chinese air force “strong capabilities in both long-range air combat and dog-fights”, the Global Times quoted a military expert as saying.