Russian jets collide during air show training

Two Russian air force jets rehearsing aerobatic maneuvers collided Sunday near Moscow, killing one stunt pilot and sending one fighter crashing into nearby vacation homes, a military official said.

The Su-27 fighters were part of the elite Russian Knights flying group preparing to perform at the MAKS-2009 air show, the largest and most important showcase for Russia's aerospace industry.

Sukhoi Su-27 is a one-seat Mach-2 class jet fighter plane originally manufactured by the Soviet Union, and designed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It was intended as a direct competitor for the large United States fourth generation fighters, with long 3,530 km range, heavy armament, sophisticated avionics and high agility.
The jets collided near Zhukovsky airfield, east of Moscow, where the air show opens Tuesday.

Air force spokesman Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said all three pilots involved ejected. He said rescuers recovered two in satisfactory condition but the third was killed.

The Kremlin identified the dead pilot as Col. Igor Tkachenko, commander of the Russian Knights. The Russian Knights' Web site said Tkachenko was 45, was married with a son and daughter, and had been an aerobatics pilot since 1989 with more than 1,500 hours' experience flying attack aircraft.

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