Russian Su-33 crashed in the Mediterranean while attempting to land on Kuznetsov aircraft carrier

Less than three weeks after losing a MiG-29, it looks like the Russian Navy has lost another aircraft during Admiral Kuznetsov operations: a Su-33 Flanker.

Military sources close to The Aviationist report that a Russian Navy Su-33 Flanker carrier-based multirole aircraft has crashed during flight operations from Admiral Kuznetsov on Saturday, Dec. 3.

According to the report, the combat plane crashed at its second attempt to land on the aircraft carrier in good weather conditions (visibility +10 kilometers, Sea State 4, wind at 12 knots): it seems that it missed the wires and failed to go around* falling short of the bow of the warship.

The pilot successfully ejected and was picked up by a Russian Navy search and rescue helicopter.

Considered that on Nov. 14 a MiG-29K crashed while recovering to the aircraft carrier, if confirmed this would be the second loss for the air wing embarked on Admiral Kuznetsov in less than three weeks and a significant blow for the Russian Naval Aviation during its combat deployment off Syria.

*Update: the Russian MoD has confirmed the incident. According to an official release the arresting wire snapped and failed to stop the aircraft.

Image credit: Russian MoD



About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. What, no comments yet? I thought the military “experts” coming from kremlin factories would have an excuse ready by now.

    This shows clearly that what was intended to be a PR excercise for Russia to sell more arms is backfiring because the carrier operations are not ready for this.
    Who knows in what state the rest of the Russian military is? I would love for Israel to jam the S-300 and conduct a bombing operations inisde Syria. I’m pretty certain Israel could do it but are not giving that away to inform the Russians of their vulnerbilities. The same for NATO countries.

    • Jam the S-300? In what parallel universe you live dude? Since the Su-30/35 and S-400 were deployed in Syria, Turkey and those jewish morons from Israel immediately stopped violate the Syrian airspace because they got scared af.

      • IAF bombed some regime sites about a week ago.

        Russians dont bother AIF planes for both political and practical reasons (practical reasons: SAMs radar placed in Latakia cant track anything in southern Syria that doesnt fly very high, due to limited coverage + Israeli RoE would allow them to shoot at any attaker)

      • I was of course talking about jaming the radars of S-300 with EW, you know the stuff israelis have done to other Russian-made surface-to-air missile systems, Pantsir-S1, in Syria (check the raid in 08, Operation Orchard)
        I know S-300 an S-400 will be harder to crack but it’s not impossible, especially for Israel.

          • Dubious sources I’m afraid. Who is “Strategika 51”? Where does this info come from?
            It sounds just as believble as many DEBKA articles.

        • Pantsir S1 is a short range SAM. It’s operational range is only 20kms. It is designed for shooting down helicopters and low altitude aircraft like the A10. F15s and 16s flying at 30,000+ feet would be immune to the Pantsir S1 and no jamming would be required.

          • Here, read for yourself:

            “Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound as reported by NATO designation), claimed to be immune to electronic jamming. At the time of Operation Orchard, Syria operated twenty nine of these advanced air defense systems, so it remains unclear how the IAF aircraft flew undetected into the night sky out over the Mediterranean Sea, across the Euphrates River and along their route to the nuclear facility.

            As explained by McCarthy, according to the most widely accepted theory the strike force included one or more Gulfstream G550 aircraft, equipped with the IAI Elta EL/W-2085 radar system.

            Indeed, the success of the operation was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems.”


            • This is irrelevant. The fact is Pantsir-S1 is a short range SAM and aircraft flying at altitude and launching missiles from range 50 km+ will be immune to the Pantsir. As I’ve said before it is a missile designed to take out choppers and ground attack aircraft like the A10. That is why the pantsir platform is armed with guns as well.

              Israel may well have jammed Syria’s radars but these would have been the older SA2/3 systems. And NO, Syria did not have S300s back in 2007. I’ve debunked this nonsense a while back.

      • Really? You do realize that Turkish Air Force recently conducted airstrikes in Syria.

        All Syria could do was tell the Turks not to do it again.

        Some of the F-16s and air refuelling tankers were on flight radar 24 inside Syrian airspace.

        Israel also continues to bomb targets inside Syria. You also do realize that they don’t require to enter Syria.

        • Russia has an agreement in place with both Israel and Turkey. Turkey is allowed limited military intervention in Northen Syria and Israel is allowed to strike at suspected terrorist groups near their border. Israel has maintained it has no issue with Assad. Turkey, I am not so sure, but they too maintain they are targeting terrorists.

          As long as there is no full blown attacks against the Syrian Government you will not get ot see the S300/400 in operation.

      • What is it about the S-300 that makes it un-jammable? You do realize that modern spectrometers can easily sweep the entire freq range they may be hopping thru, and then use that to spoof or jam even the most modern radar? Modern radar is not invincible, but it’s def more difficult. As a fan of Russian SAMs you need to ask yourself what really happened in those missile and lofted bomb raids into Damascus and on the Syrian side of Golan. Did the Russians let those raids happen? Or does Israel know how to penetrate S-300 coverage?

    • Nah; but, what is clearly shows is that you jump to nebulous conclusion, to support you bias. According to initial reports, this was clearly a pilot accident; seems he failed to perform standard procedure and cut corners.

      Landing on a carrier is a PR exercise now?! Really? How?! BTW, they do not sell aircraft carriers, so a double fail right there.

      Accidents happen all the time; within last three weeks, two USAF AF-18’s collided in mid air with fatal consequences. A Canadian CF-18 crashed in Alberta last week, while undergoing training exercise.

      • Russia already has a permanent base in Latakia, Syria. Why bring in a carrier as well if not for PR? Russia doesn’t need the carrier sorties cause the bombing is being done mainly from Lataka.

        The reason is to showcase the carrier and improve the image of Russian arms to sell more of it. Not exactly rocket science but it appears it’s too complicated for you.

        • Russians do not have experience of using aircraft carriers in battle (like US does) and this is used to gain a real battle experience and to revaluate their aircraft capabilities and to increase effectiveness of Admiral Kuznetsov crew.

        • “The reason is to showcase the carrier and improve the image of Russian arms to sell more of it.”
          Or to really prove to the Supreme Commander the worth of the aircraft carriers. Or to get real experience of battle operations off the deck of aircraft carrier. Or to test some of the new equipment installed on Su-33s. Or all of the above plus a host of other possible reasons/factors.

          “Not exactly rocket science but it appears it’s too complicated for you.”
          Or in the words of H.L. Mencken “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

          • Russia has 1 aging, outdated carrier with no other plans of modernising the carrier fleet. Sure, training is always good but the training done here won’t be doing much good in regards to carrier operations. I mean Kuznetsov can’t even go further than the Med, how can they utilise the training if the mothership can’t get anywhere?

            Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate (“plurality should not be posited without necessity”) – Occam’s Razor :)

        • Why bring a flight deck cruiser? Maybe to gain some experience when using it for combat missions. According to your post every weapons test is for PR nowadays. Pretty silly way of thinking.

        • There are many reasons, one reason is the Carrier is not under observation by land based spies so they do not know when Russian planes are on a mission or could be incoming.

      • 1, Russia is one of the very few powers that does indeed sell carriers, as well as refurbish older ones, so, your points not really valid.
        2, no ones postulating that this is a sales pitch for carriers, but, those Mig29’s and Su33’s are sure tasty looking treats for a growing Indian carrier fleet, as well as a rising Chinese one. Lets be honest, neither of those 2 powers is capable of creating a carrier capable aircraft. Hence, the sales pitch.

    • “I would love for Israel to jam the S-300 and conduct a bombing operations inside Syria.”

      They already have. Back when they bombed that Syrian reactor.

        • He’s referring to an older incident. Not one since Russians are there.

          And the one attack lately was against Hezbollah that support the SAA. It was not against the SAA or Russians.

          • He claims the Syrian “reactor” was protected by S300 systems. This is utter nonsense. Syria did not have S300s back in 2007. They had the short range Pantsir-S1s plus legacy SA2/3 systems. No modern long range SAM systems. S300 deployment to Syria has only been in the last few years.

            • Yes, I see. I wonder where he got that information because in 2013, Israel still was afraid Russia would deliver such systems to Syria and Iran. It seems he’s “bending” information in his favor.

              As far as I know, all seven S-300 in Syria are still property of Russia’S military. The Russians only helped to get the older Syrian S-200 and Buk operational again, along with some modernization.

        • Yet you would have no problem believing a single Su-24 was able to jam and shut down a US Destroyer…

    • Big deal. It made the headlines only because it was a Russian aircraft carrier and Russian aircraft. Happens all the time with all aircraft carriers. US ones too.

      Here is the one from August this year: youtube(dot)com/watch?v=YECNUYSFX7U
      Here is the one from March: reuters(dot)com/article/us-usa-navy-sailors-idUSKCN0WK2V5

      These are just recently reported ones. We can only guess how many of such cases are not reported. Landing on an aircraft carrier was and remains inherently risky business.

      Yeah, and saying this makes me an “expert coming from kremlin factories”, right Tosi?

    • erm,
      Israel did launch a punitive strike last week, 4 cruise missiles came in from the Med, over Lebanon and struck 4 targets in Syria, between Damascus and Lebanon. I don’t know that the Russians didn’t detect them, but if they did, no attempt was made to intercept them… Read what you want into that.

      • Putin and Netanyahu have a deal where Israel informs Russia of strikes so that they can ensure their personnel are not in the area.

        • Nope.
          They’ve a deal for real time deconfliction. Operational matters are not shared or discussed ahead of times.

    • Why is there a need for an “excuse”? Russians have no experience with such combat operations. And there’s always the possibility of human error or technical failure. I haven’t seen such a flood of comments about the 8 F-18s that crashed in a period of 6 months. But of course, the Russians are different. So many people here wish them bad things. But what have the Russians done to the US that warrants that? It seems all the sofa warriors here who wish there would be military conflict between NATO and Russia or Israel and Russia are completely out of their minds. What for? Which reason would Israel have to attack Russia?

      • In case you missed it, Russia is involved in a PR war with the west. So everything that comes from Russian sites is goverment controlled spin that aims to project a certain image of Russian military. That’s why I was wondering how the apologists would spin this.

        And I never did write about a war, I’m just not convinced about the omnipotence of S-300, S-400 and I want the Israelis or NATO to penetrate the systems and perform operations against the criminal Syrian “regime”.

        • NATO goes into highly defended Syrian air space all the time in the form of the F-22 Raptor.

        • I case you have missed it, the Russians declared that any attack on the SAA will be seen as an attack on Russian forces. It still would start a major conflict, possibly WW3. Talking about criminals, what happened in Iraq in 2003? It’s a proven fact by now that there never were WMDs. It was a war based on lies, made up by “Curveball”. Also, 500,000 children died in Iraq because of sanctions by “the west”. And Albright told it was worth it. So that are “western values”? I call that double standard.

          Russian media is telling propaganda? I guess they finally have learned to do it like Fox, CNN and so on. But RT isn’t hiding it. They are closer to the facts than western media. And I don’t really care what you might think about me. It’s not really important. What is important is that Russia and the SAA are winning in Aleppo. The terrorists that are backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar (as proxies of the US) deserve that defeat.

          Seems RT is doing a better job than the 27.000 PR agents of the Pentagon and even with less money.

          • RT is a bastion of FACTS, please. Its sooo important that Russia and Syria are bombing civilian areas, hospitals, markets in areas that stood up to Assad or they don’t show that on RT?

    • you will realize the state of russian military when you get good pounding from them. Let’s hope it will happen very soon

  2. Pretty unfortunate, and embarrassing. The pilot is ok, but, it was his fault, if the article is correct. Missing the wires happens occasionally, but it is dealt with relatively easy.

    According to the article, the pilot cut corners, failing to make the complete re-approach the 2nd time, and had too low of an air speed as the result, and failed into the sea. .

    If the pilot did ignore standard procedure, I wonder of the disciplinary action, if any?! .

    • Nothing about landing on a carrier is “relatively easy.” Nothing. And it appears the arresting cable failed, not the pilot.

    • Russia lost 2 in just a few weeks and they dont have many carrier planes. Its not a disaster for Russia (after all their carrier planes are crap anyway), but its embarassing.

      • Crap? You clearly have no idea what are you talking about. The Su-33 is another stage of development of the legendary record breaker Su-27. How can be a plane which beat no less than 27 world records and totally overcome american F-15 Strike Eagle program a crap? As for MiG-29K, that’s also another stage of development of one of the most used jet fighter ever. Against its original version from early 80’s, it has better airframe which consist of 15% composite materials and RCS of the plane was reduced about 4-5 times. It has new, better and reliable engines (not the smokey ones anymore) completly new avionics, armament, better range or radiolocator Zhuk-ME which can track 10 targets and attack 4 of them simultaneously. At the end, pilots of the MiG-29Ks uses TopSight helmets from France company Thales.

        • Using composite materials doesn’t reduce RCS to the levels you claim. Even putting RAM on a non-stealthy aircraft doesn’t reduce RCS to those levels. A clean Super Hornet and Rafale (both have some measure of stealthy design and RAM applied) don’t even have RCS levels close to an F-117. In the end the overall shaping and applications is what makes an aircraft truly stealthy. Compared to true stealth aircraft (F-22, F-35, and even T-50 PAKFA) the Flanker variants might as well be a large flashy bright las vegas casino sign.

          • I didn’t claim that the RCS is now such extremly low as the F-117 should has , but that against original version of the MiG-29 from 80’s it has several times lower RCS due to use of composite materials.

            • Again, using composite materials doesn’t dramatically reduce the RCS, especially in the quantities you are claiming. AT MOST (and this is very generous) composite materials like carbon fiber for example would reduce RCS by 3%, IF THAT.

          • It is partially true: consider that only 20% of rafale is metal made, and less then 15% in case of typhoon; anyway better compare navalized fighter; f35 offer many advantages over rafale but rafale is still superior not only in trust hto weight but most of all in aerodinamics. (superior continous turn rate bot h in subsonic and supersonic)…Mig29k has very good istantaneous turn rate in subsonic nbut it is all: continuous trun rate in subsnic is not good, it justa draggy figter like all russian triplane models and supersonic envelope is forbidden in real war scenario: indian pilots claim then in supersonic mirage2000 is much more agile then mig29

        • Composites in the MiG-29K? Wow. Impressive. – Oh wait – the F22 has 24% composites and the YF-22 demonstrator dates to the 1980’s.

          Track 10 and attack 4? Wow. Impressive. – Oh wait – the F-14 did that in the 1970’s, except it fired a better missile, attacking 6 targets simultaneously while tracking 24.

          So they are only 4 to 5 DECADES – that’s half a century, if you are scoring by hand – behind in development and capability.

          If Allegiant Airlines has 20 canceled/diverted flights in a year due to MX and Delta has 20 as well, which is more of a problem? Hint: Delta is a much bigger airline than Allegiant. Corollary: USN has just a few more carriers than Russian Navy.

          My point here is, Yes, the USN has arresting gear failures and other mishaps. Russia has 2 in a short period of time but ONLY HAS ONE CARRIER, they should just give up now. Time to scuttle that thing over the Mariana trench.

          Sure, if you do thousands of cat shots and traps (like a large Navy), you are bound to have a cable snap. But in a 1 boat flotilla, it’s a goddamned joke. It’s WAY more likely the crap russian pilots with crap russian naval aviation training in crap russian aircraft boltered off the end of the one & only crap autist ski jump designed russian carrier and put it in the drink TWICE within weeks, vs double equipment failures. Of course the arresting gear is probably made out of twisted vodka bottle wrappers.

          • Comparing 4th gen. carrier-based multirole fighter with 5th. gen. non carrier-based and only air superiority fighter and with prototype from early 90’s give many sense. Wow. Very clever.
            The technical problems of the russian ship doesn’t have nothing common with quality of the jet fighters. The two last mishaps weren’t even plane’s or pilot’s faults, but I agree with you that Russian carrier is in bad condition for such an operation, but as I already wrote it has nothing common with the planes so it’s tottaly nonsense said that naval aviation is crap.
            The ski jump is just excess of Soviet technology. Kuznecov was built yet in Soviet Union and probably they planned the main use of the ship in extremely cold weather in artic region of Russia where the steam catapults could be problematic to maintain and magnetic catapults didn’t have even american carries in that time, so here’s why there is a ski jump on the ship. Btw, the ski jumps are used on almost every non-american aircraft carrier, the newest Britanian carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has a ski jump too, so if you think that use of ski jump on a carrier ship is a shame or that it’s outdated, you are wrong.

  3. Good that the pilot has survived. Also thanks for calling anybody you disagree with a bot, maybe it will make your arguments relevant one day.

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