A Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jet of Vietnam carrying two pilots went missing while traversing the vast and highly contested South China Sea Tuesday.
The Russian-made jet was conducting a routine training off the coast in the Vietnamese province, when it lost contact with the air traffic control Tuesday.
Senior Lieutenant Vo Van Tuan told the Reuters that training drills using the same aircraft model would be temporarily suspended pending the investigation.
According to a report from Reuters, the military aircraft, which was traveling at a speed of 30-40kph, was manned by two pilots, one of whom successfully jumped off the jet before it crashed into the vast sea.
“We haven’t found the jet yet, we are still looking. We have to find it to know it,” Tuan told the Reuters, adding that investing is underway to know the reason behind the crash.
The report added that it wasn’t the first time that a similar air mishaps involving Vietnam’s outdated aircrafts, the South China Morning Post reported. It added that in a span of two years, Vietnam saw at least two incidents involving air mishaps, which resulted to the deaths of 24 individuals.
The incident happened amid the effort of Vietnam’s national government to overhaul and modernize its military assets and capability. Currently, the Vietnamese Air Force has a total of 32 Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets in its inventory, including the one that went missing.
Vietnam is one of the countries with existing claims on one of the world’s most important maritime zones, alongside with the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, among others. At least $5 trillion of seaborne goods passes through each year in South China Sea, making it a vital maritime zone both economically and politically.