MOSCOW (AFP) – A supersonic Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber crashed in the southern Saratov region with four crew members aboard.
The plane was conducting a test flight after having had a motor replaced and military officials told the Interfax news agency that it was not carrying any weapons. “There was neither strategic nor ordinary weapons aboard,” the news agency quoted military officials as saying Thursday.
“The Tu-160 recently had a new motor installed. The plane was doing a test flight with the new motor. Suddenly, it crashed to the ground,” Interfax quoted a military official as saying.
“The crew reported that the motor was on fire at 10:30 (am), before the accident,” a military spokesman told Interfax.
The plane crashed at 11 am local time (0700 GMT), officials said.
“All the crew members died as a result of the accident,” the agency quoted a military spokesman as saying. “The pilots remains have been found.”
The defense ministry has launched an investigation into the incident, officials told the Russian news agencies.
The Tu-160, often referred to as Tu-160 Blackjack, was made in the 1980s in response to the US B-1 bomber. It is a supersonic plane that can carry up to 12 missiles, including nuclear warheads, and can fly up to an altitude of 16,000 meters (52,493 feet)..
Russia is believed to have 15 such planes and last year said it would update the fleet to be able to carry new types of missiles.