Two Lithuanian Air Force (LAF) pilots ejected from their Aero L-39C Albatros jet trainer aircraft after a midair collision with a NATO Dassault Mirage 2000C jet fighter in a training exercise over northern Lithuania on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. EEST, and parachuted safely to the ground, sustaining minor injuries, according to reports published on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Fox News, Forbes, the Associated Press, and other international media sources.
The French built Mirage 2000C, which is seen in the attached video clip and extended slide show accompanying this report, was able to land safely at the Zokniai military base on the grounds of Siauliai International Airport (SQQ), 135 miles northwest of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital of the independent Baltic state, where NATO maintains a squadron of such aircraft for patrolling the skies over the region.
On addition to being a member of NATO, Lithuania is a member state of the European Union.
Before exiting from their critically damaged Czech built Aero L-39C Albatros, the pilots were able to steer the crippled plane away from populated areas to a wooded swamp near Rekyva lake, about 3 miles from the air base, where the jet crashed without injuries to anyone on the ground, according to Lithuanian defense chief Arvydas Pocius.
Reports by the NATO military alliance indicate that the French pilots were able to land their fourth generation, high performance warplane at the air base, and that the aircraft only sustained minor damage. Both pilots were reported to good condition after a medical evaluation.
They were flying in formation with a second Mirage 2000C jet, which was not involved in the airborne collision.
Military authorities are investigating the accident, and have secured the black boxes, flight data and voice recorders, from the downed L-39C Albatros.
All military service groups throughout the world have post crash teams which examine every incident, and make safety recommendations based on their findings.
The Prime Minister of Lithuania, Andrius Kubilius, also promised a full investigation into the accident.
The Aero L-39C Albatros was first introduced in 1971, and was flown primarily by the former Soviet Air Force, as well as the Air Forces of Thailand (RTAF), Lithuania (LAF), Libya, and Czechoslovakia. It was manufactured up until 1999 at a cost of $200,000 to $300,000 per unit, a relatively low price for a jet trainer. About 2,800 of the aircraft are still in use by military in over 39 countries.
The aircraft, which is often seen at air shows, is powered by a Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan jet engine, has a maximum speed of 466 mph, a range of 683 miles, a service ceiling of 36,100 feet, and a rate of climb of 4,130 feet per minute.
The Dassault Mirage 2000C, which is shown in detail in a striking French Air Force (ALA) video clip attached to this report, was first introduced in November 1982, and is among 601 produced at a unit cost of $23 million dollars a copy.
The French built multi role, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter is manufactured by Dassault Aviation, and is currently being flown by military in 9 countries, including France, Egypt, Greece, India, Peru, Republic of China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Brazil, and Qatar.
The high performance aircraft is powered by a single SNECMA M53-P2 afterburning turbofan jet engine, has a supersonic speed of Mach 2.2, exceeding 1,500 miles an hour, a range of 963 miles, a service ceiling of 59,000 feet, and an impressive rate of climb of 56,000 feet per minute. As a warplane, it carries a range of guns, rockets, both air-to-surface, and air-to-air missiles, and up to 9 bombs.
French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard told reporters that the incident wouldn’t change France’s role in the NATO operations, that are carried out from a base near the northern town of Siauliai. There are several similar training flights which are scheduled each week, he added.
Tell us your thoughts. Please leave comments below or by email and subscribe to get future updates. There is also expanded coverage of other recent news articles. You may also wish to follow our dispatches as the News Analysis Examiner.