Three Ukrainian pilots died after two L-39 combat trainer jets collided mid-air while they were on a combat mission.
Ukrainian Air Force’s 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade confirmed this information on its official Facebook page on August 25. It said the crash occurred in the skies over the Zhytomyr region.
The circumstances of the crash are being investigated.
All three pilots -- Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov, Vyacheslav Minka and Sergiy Prokazin -- were experienced and had logged over 200 hours of flight hours.
Pilot “Juice” had gained popularity for his efforts in engaging with Western media, had been vocal about the lack of modern fighter jets within the Ukrainian Air Force. He had been a strong advocate for Ukraine's acquisition of advanced F-16 fighter jets.
Russian media reported that "it is possible that the planes were patrolling, but the collision occurred a few minutes after an alert for an airstrike was announced throughout Ukraine due to the flight of a Russian aircraft carrying hypersonic Kinzhal missiles from an airport in Belarus."
The pilots might have chosen to maintain a tight formation, aiming to confuse and execute defensive actions against incoming Russian missiles. This strategy could trick Russian fighter radar systems into spotting just a single aircraft, creating an opportunity for them to split up as they neared the target. This separation could then set the stage for an unexpected assault.