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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian Air Force lifts temporary ban on Su-25 flights

RIA Novosti

26/03/2008 15:18 MOSCOW, March 26 (RIA Novosti) - The ban on the flights of Russian Su-25 strike aircraft imposed after a fatal crash in Russia's Far East last week has been lifted, an Air Force spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Air Force suspended all Su-25 strike aircraft flights after a Su-25 Frogfoot close-support aircraft exploded in the air on March 20 during a live firing exercise over the Primorye Territory, about 143 kilometers (90 miles) from the port of Vladivostok.

"All restrictions on flights of aircraft of this type [Su-25] have been lifted," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said. "Flights are being conducted according to the planned schedule."

An investigation into the cause of the incident has been launched and a special investigation commission has been working at the crash site for a week.

Earlier findings suggested that the explosion of a rocket launched from the plane during a midair live firing exercise caused the crash, but on Wednesday a source close to investigation said the aircraft was downed by a missile accidentally launched by a wingman from an accompanying plane.

However, Drobyshevsky warned against jumping to any conclusions until the official investigation is complete.

"The investigation is still under way," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

"An official announcement regarding the cause [of the crash] can only be made by the head of the special investigation commission after the investigation is complete," he said.

The Su-25 is a single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau to provide close air support for ground troops.

The aircraft is reported to have experienced a number of accidents in operational service caused by system failures attributed to the salvo firing of weapons.

The Su-25 aircraft has been in service with the Russian Air Force for more than 25 years. In 1999, Russia adopted a program to upgrade part of its aging Su-25 fleet. The Russian Air Force received the first six modernized planes, Su-25SM, in December 2006.

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