MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. Three crewmembers died after a Tu-22 bomber’s ejection system suddenly went off at an airfield near Kaluga in central Russia, the Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday.
"Today, during planned preparations of a Tu-22M3 aircraft on the ground for a flight at an airfield in the Kaluga Region, the ejection system was suddenly activated," the ministry said.
"Due to the insufficient altitude for parachute opening, three crewmembers received fatal injuries upon landing," it said.
A commission of Russia’s Aerospace Force has been sent to the scene "to examine the plane technically and establish the causes of the incident," the ministry said.
A source in the region’s defense circles told TASS earlier on Tuesday that three servicemen had died as a result of ejector seats’ activation upon the start of engines of a Tu-22M3 bomber at an airfield near Kaluga.
"Ejector seats were activated upon the engines’ start. Three people died, including the regiment’s commander who sat in the instructor’s seat," the source said.
Meanwhile, a source in the regional health service told TASS earlier on Tuesday that one of the crewmembers of the Tu-22M3 bomber had survived in the incident.
"One person was taken to the hospital of the medical unit in Shaikovka," the source said, replying to a question about the crewmembers.
The regional operations control service reported on Tuesday that the incident with the Tu-22M3 bomber near Kaluga had caused no victims among local residents.
"There are no victims among civilians," it said.
It was earlier reported that drills of a squadron of Tu-22M3 bombers took place in the Kaluga Region this week.
The Tu-22M is a family of Soviet and later Russian long-range supersonic missile-carrying bombers with the variable-sweep wing. These planes are designed to strike ground and sea targets with supersonic missiles and bombs at any time of day or night and in any weather conditions. These bombers can also carry nuclear weapons.
The Tu-22M3 is one of the Russian Aerospace Force’s basic bombers along with the Tu-95MS and the Tu-160. A Tu-22 plane took to the skies for the first time in 1977.
Tu-22M bombers actively participated in Russia’s operation against terrorists in Syria.
The previous incident entailing the death of crewmembers occurred on January 22, 2019, when a Tu-22M3 bomber of the 40th composite aviation regiment of the Aerospace Force’s long-range aviation crashed while making an approach for landing at an aerodrome in Olenegorsk in the Murmansk Region. As a result, three crewmembers died while one pilot survived.