Iranian fighter jet crashes into school, three dead

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Tehran (AFP) – An Iranian F-5 fighter jet crashed into a school compound in the northwest city of Tabriz on Monday, killing two crew members and a bystander, authorities said.

“Fortunately, the school has been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” local official Mohammad-Bagher Honarvar told state television.

The plane was on a training mission when it crashed around 09:00 (0530 GMT) in the central district of the city of Monajem, said Honavar, who heads a crisis management unit in the province of East Azerbaijan.

The head of the local Red Crescent organization said the plane crashed into an outside wall and one of the dead was a local resident.

A fire broke out at the crash site and firefighters were seen battling the flames as a crowd watched, in video footage from the official IRNA news agency.

Iranian authorities say the school was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic when the F-5 fighter jet which was on a training mission crashed – TASNIM NEWS/AFP

The charred remains of the warplane could be seen among the rubble of the school’s blackened facade.

The plane was stationed at Shahid Fakouri air base in Tabriz, base commander General Reza Youssefi told the TV station, adding that he was returning from the training mission when he encountered a technical problem which prevented it from landing.

Aging fleet

Iran’s air force has some 300 fighter jets, mostly Soviet-era Russian MiG-29 and Sukhoi-25 fighters, as well as Chinese F-7s and French Mirage F1s.

Iranian plane crash
Iranian plane crash AFP

The fleet also includes American F-4 and F-5 jets that date back to the Western-backed Shah’s regime, which was ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Experts say only some of these planes are operational.

In August 2006, Iran announced that it had developed a new fighter jet named “Azarakhsh” (Lightning) which it described as similar to the F-5.

A year later, he unveiled another local jet called “Saegheh” (Thunder), saying it was similar to the American F-18.

But some Western military experts said the Saegheh was a derivative of the F-5.

Monday’s fighter jet crash was the first accident involving a military aircraft reported by Iran since December 2019.

At the time, a MiG-29 warplane crashed near a dormant volcano in the northwest of the country during a test flight, according to state media.

Three days later, the military confirmed the pilot’s death.

In January 2019, a military cargo plane overran a runway, crashed and burst into flames during a failed landing near the capital Tehran.

The head of the local Red Crescent organization said the plane crashed into an outside wall and one of the dead was a nearby resident.
The head of the local Red Crescent organization said the plane crashed into an outside wall and one of the dead was a nearby resident. – TASNIM NEWS/AFP

At the time, the military said 15 people were killed in the crash.

A fighter jet also crashed in Tabriz during military exercises in September 2011, local media reported.

Iran has been under tough US sanctions since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal struck three years earlier between Tehran and world powers.

Talks are underway in Vienna to revive the agreement and Iran is asking for the sanctions to be lifted.