Military commando units and mountain search and rescue teams have found the wreckage of an Iranian Air Force MIG-29 fighter jet in the Sabalan mountain range in the northwestern province of Ardabil on, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) has reported.
The Russian-made aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from the Tabriz Fighter Squadron Airbase, in the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan, on December 25, killing the pilot Airforce Colonel Mohammad Reza Rahmani.
The deputy governor for Ardabil Province Behrouz Nedaei told IRNA that authorities had located the wreckage of the aircraft and dispatched several search teams to the crash site.
“The search teams have now found the debris,” Mr. Nedaei said. “Military units have secured the area. We can confirm that the pilot died in the accident.”
“Poor weather initially hampered the search operation,” a statement by the Army Public Relations Office said. “However, search units from Army Aviation, Airforce commandos, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Iranian Red Crescent Society, and local volunteers located the crash site. Authorities have confirmed that the pilot, Airforce Colonel Mohammad Reza Rahmani, died in the crash.”
The incident reportedly occurred during a routine test flight over the village of Sardabeh in Ardabil. According to military sources, the aircraft had been recently repaired.
Kayhan Life understands that Colonel Rahmani was an experienced test pilot for the Iranian Airforce who carried out most of the Functional Check Flight (FCF) for the refurbished jet fighters.
Back in 2016, senior Air Force officials hailed the overhaul and restoration of the Soviet-era MIG-29 as “a great achievement for the Islamic Republic.”
Nearly the entire fleet of the Iranian Airforce fighter jets was purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and crippling U.S. sanctions have forced the Iranian Airforce to overhaul and modernize its aging fleet of fighter jets.
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]