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MOSCOW, October 30 (Itar-Tass) — The Russian Defense Ministry said the cause behind the crash of the Su-24 fighter in the Chelyabinsk region earlier on Tuesday was the loss of its transparent radome.
"After the unsuccessful attempt to make an emergency landing, the pilots decide to take the falling plane away from settlements and eject," the Ministry said.
The radar is set in the nose of the aircraft. During maintenance works, the nose is moved sideways to provide access to the antenna array. In this particular accident, the aircraft actually lost part of its nose section, military officials said.
The rescue teams on Mi-8 helicopters collected the crew at 13:54, Moscow time. The pilots are in satisfactory conditions. They are now undergoing a medical check.
Earlier reports said the military grounded the Su-24 bombers at the Shagol air base following the crash.
"The flights have been suspended until further notice," Yaroslav Rosshchupkin, an aide to the Central Military District commander, told Itar-Tass.
The Defense Ministry said the Su-24 met with an accident during a flight before scheduled repairs. "It crashed near the village of Yetkul, 67 kilometers southeast of the Shagol airfield," the Ministry's press service told Tass.
The crew reported the accident at 13:21, Moscow time.
The Su-24M was developed by the Sukhoi design bureau in the 1960s. The bomber was added to the Air Force's arsenal in 1985. Its maximum takeoff mass is 40 tons and maximum speed is 2,300 km/h. It has a range of 4,300 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 17,500 meters. It can carry eight tons of ammunition.
The plane was used during the fighting in Afghanistan for attacks from an altitude of 5,500 meters where it was out of reach of portable anti-aircraft missiles.