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Soviet Jet Fighter Crashes While Chasing Swedish Plane

July 11, 1985

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ A Soviet Su-15 jet fighter crashed in the Baltic Sea while checking out a Swedish warplane that was monitoring a Warsaw Pact naval exercise, Swedish officials said Thursday. The Soviet pilot was believed killed.

″It was pure accident during a routine operation,″ said Bertil Lagerwall, chief spokesman of the Swedish defense staff.

The Soviet Su-15 crashed Sunday when a Swedish J-35 Viggen multi-purpose fighter approached the Warsaw Pact naval exercise in international waters southeast of Gotland island, defense officials said.

When the Swedish plane neared the naval exercise, two Su-15 fighters apparently were dispatched to identify it, as is common under international military procedure, said the staff’s press spokesman, Jan Tuninger.

The Soviet fighters flew to the left and rear of the Swedish plane, also according to international rules, he said. The pursuing plane, flying at an altitude of only about 200 yards and a speed of about 360 mph, Suddenly crashed into the sea, he said.

Tuninger said the pilot failed to eject and presumably was killed. Soviet ships quickly arrived to search for the pilot and did not request Swedish assistance.

The crash and the rescue operation were monitored by Swedish radar and radio reconnaissance units, who overheard the Soviet pilot cry out: ″I am going to crash.″

The cause of the crash was unknown. The weather was clear and calm in the area at the time, defense officials said. One said there was a possibility that the Soviet pilot misjudged the altitude while keeping his eyes on the Swedish fighter ahead.

Said Lagerwall: ″Both the Swedish and Soviet pilots followed standard procedures in connection with Such routine operations, this time, however, with an unfortunate outcome.″

A spokesman for Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said no diplomatic repercussions were expected.

Tuninger said Sweden had not released news of the accident ″because we have no reason to tell of other country’s crashes.″ The Soviet Union seldom reports military accidents, Tuninger said.

The airplane crashed in roughly the same area where a Soviet Su-15 fighter purSued a Swedish airliner into Swedish air space last August just south of the Gotland.

Anders Thunborg, Sweden’s defense minister, said that incident was ″the most serious violation of Swedish air space in recent years.″ It led to a diplomatic dispute and a sharp Swedish protest to Moscow.

Defense officials said they had no information to confirm a news agency report that claimed a Soviet jet fighter was purSuing a Swedish sports plane before the Su-15 crashed.

The Su-15, a swept-wing, twin-jet fighter, first appeared in public in 1967. Known by the NATO designation of ″Flagon,″ the Su-15 can fly at 21/2 times the speed of sound, according to the 1981-82 edition of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft.