MOSCOW, RUSSIA — A Russian pilot has been reinstated to duty after a Russian military court found him innocent. The case was filed because, during an exercise, the Su-35 pilot mistakenly shot down his fellow Su-30SM2. The two pilots have been practicing air combat.
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The cause of the accident was not the pilot of the Su-35, but the ground control conducting the training. Ground control did not disable the Su-35’s onboard 30mm cannon. Thus, 25 rounds from the cannon meet the hull of the Su-30. Instead of an electronic notification notifying the Su-30SM2 pilot that it was shot down, as is the practice around the world, live rounds went into action and caused the incident.
According to the Russian military, Major Vasily Saveliev is guilty. He was the commander of the 790th Fighter Aviation Regiment at the time.
The air battle is between the two Russian flagships of the Russian fighter air force. The Su-30SM2 is the latest upgraded version of the Su-30 and is considered a very good fighter.
During the battle, the Su-30 gained the upper hand over its opponent. Pursued the Su-35 and fought a fierce duel in the air, managing to “conditionally shoot it down” at least twice.
Pushed to a corner, the Su-35 pilot decided to take riskier maneuvers and at some point turned the advantage. So the Su-35 and its pilot, Major Saveliev, began a furious pursuit of the Su-30SM2.
At one point, the goal is intercepted and Saveliev sees a chance to “take down” his opponent. He pulls the trigger on his GSh-30-1 30mm cannon, waiting for an electronic notification that the rounds are out and the target is down. The astonishment was great when, instead of a signal on the display, 25 cartridges came out of the heated muzzle of the cannon and pierced the opponent, who fell before Saveliev’s eyes.
GSh-30-1 is a Gatling type cannon. Saveliev managed to stop at the 4th or 5th second. Plenty of time for the cannon to rain bullets down on the enemy.
Guilty or innocent
Despite the court ruling that the pilot was innocent, there are still comments that he was more guilty than his colleagues at ground control.
According to Russian standards, before the official start of air combat training, each launcher pilot must take his aircraft to a safe area and test whether the guns are loaded with live ammunition or disabled. This is apparently not done.
According to the documents regarding the instructions for conducting training and operating the Su-35, the pilot is required to turn off the “master” switch that powers the electrical circuits of weapons pylons and racks carrying bombs, missiles, and cannons.
The pilot was still acquitted due to the following fact: a month before the incident, a Su-35 was shot down from combat duty. This assumes that the aircraft is subject to full service. According to Russian standards, an aircraft must first pass a test [in this case training] before being returned to combat duty. Again, according to Russian instructions and standards, an aircraft that is about to undergo a test must be inspected by the ground team, which is obliged to bring the armament to a “non-combat position”.
The biggest problem for the ground team was that before the test flights were carried out, the logbooks had written that the aircraft was in a non-combat condition. I.e. all weapons are off. The ground staff consists of a technician midshipman and a senior lieutenant, as well as airfield and hangar service personnel.
Cartridges in a 30 mm gun are not removed even during tests. This is done because the time it takes too long to reload. “But for some reason, the technical service representatives forgot to open the electrical contactor of the gun’s auxiliary safety and remove the projectile strip from the breach,” the court report said.
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