A MIG 21 Lancer fighter belonging to the Romanian Air Forces lost contact with the control tower and went off the radar while performing an air patrol mission in Dobrogea, south-eastern Romania, on Wednesday evening, March 2.
The IAR 330-Puma helicopter that was sent to find the missing MIG aircraft crashed later on the same evening and all the five crew members lost their lives, the Romanian Defense Ministry announced on its Facebook page.
The tragedy occurred amid increased air police missions in Romania after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several NATO countries have sent more fighter aircraft to participate in such missions in Romania.
The MIG 21 Lancer aircraft took off from the Mihai Kogalniceanu airbase at 19:50 and lost contact with the control tower at 20:00. Three minutes later, it went off radar in an area close to Cogealac village in Dobrogea, according to a press release issued by the Romanian Defense Ministry. The MIG or its pilot hadn’t been found by the time this article was published.
The IAR 330-Puma helicopter took off from the same airbase at 20:21 to search for the missing MIG and went off radar at 20:44. It crashed about 11 kilometers from the airbase after the pilot had reported unfavorable weather conditions and had been ordered to return to base, the Defense Ministry announced in a second press release.
This is the most serious aviation incident involving military aircraft that occurred in Romania in recent years. In November 2014, a military helicopter crashed in Transylvania with ten people on board, eight of whom died.
Several MIG fighters belonging to the Romanian Air Forces also crashed in recent years. In 2018, one such aircraft crashed during an airshow and the pilot died as he pulled the MIG from the crowd.