DPRK MiG crashes in China

UPDATE 2 (8/19/2010): China and the DPRK assert mechanical problems as the cause fo the crash. According to the AFP:

Investigators have found that the plane crash in Liaoning province’s Fushun county was caused by a mechanical failure, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing unidentified government sources.

The pilot lost course due to the unspecified mechanical failure and strayed into Chinese territory, Xinhua said.

“The aircraft crashed into a civilian makeshift house, leaving no Chinese dead or injured. The pilot died on the spot,” the brief report said.

China and North Korea have “reached consensus on coping with the aftermath” of the accident, for which Pyongyang has “expressed regret”, Xinhua said.

It said Thursday that Chinese officials, watched by about 100 armed police, dismantled the plane and transported it to an unidentified location.

It quoted witnesses as saying the plane crashed after circling a couple of times above their village in an apparent attempt to crash land.

“I’ve never seen any plane flying so low in my life. I thought the plane was on a training mission but suddenly it fell to the ground,” one witness told Yonhap.

North Korea, which has been silent over the reported crash of its aircraft Tuesday, on Thursday boasted of its “invincible” air power.

The North’s air force has grown to be an “invincible revolutionary armed force” since it was founded in 1947, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korean pilots “fully demonstrated their combat capability” during the 1950-53 Korean War, it said.

UPDATE 1 (8/18/2010): some pictures here and here.

ORIGINAL POST (8/18/2010): According to Yonhap:

A North Korean airplane that appeared to be a Soviet-era jet fighter crashed in a Chinese border area, killing the pilot aboard who may have been attempting to defect to Russia, intelligence sources in Shenyang said Wednesday.

The crash took place in Fushun Prefecture in the province of Liaoning Tuesday afternoon, the sources said, adding the pilot was the only person aboard the plane when it crashed.

“The pilot died on the spot,” one source said, adding the Chinese authorities were able to identify the nationality of the airplane only after the crash.

Chinese authorities had confirmed that a small aircraft flew into their territory but did not identify its origin. Photos of the wreckage purportedly taken by a Chinese resident and uploaded on the Internet showed the North Korean flag on the tail of the plane.

Another source said that the plane is believed to have lost its direction while flying to Russia after escaping North Korea. China has a repatriation pact with North Korea, which may have led the pilot to choose Russia as his destination.

Some experts said the plane appeared to be a MiG-15, a model widely deployed during the 1950-53 Korean War but now used mostly for training. South Korea’s military said it was more likely a MiG-21, citing a radar detection of the North Korean aircraft leaving an air base near the border with China.

“Radar images show the North Korean aircraft took off from the air base in Sinuiju,” an official in Seoul said, based on images captured by the Air Force’s Monitor Control and Reporting Center (MCRC) that monitors activities of North Korean aircraft.

“According to the images, it appears to be a MiG-21,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Fushun is about 200 kilometers away from the Sinuiju air base. The number of North Korean soldiers defecting from their impoverished homeland has increased in recent months as food shortages deepen, observers say.

According to the New York Times:

Although thousands of North Koreans have fled their repressive home country in the past decade and a half, it is highly unusual for an elite pilot to defect. A North Korean pilot flew his MiG-19 to defect to South Korea in 1983. Another North Korean pilot did the same in 1996.

Cao Yunjuan, a 54-year-old farmer in Fushun County, where the crash occurred, said she saw the plane going down but that she heard no explosion.

“Around 3 p.m. yesterday, I saw a small plane going down and soon it disappeared from my view,” she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “There was no blast, though.”

Ms. Cao said that she lived less than a mile from the crash site and that she and other villagers went to see the wreckage before the area was cordoned off by the police. Many saw a North Korean emblem on the plane’s tail. Photographs of what appear to be the crash site show a North Korean star on the wreckage.

Xinhua said China was in communication with North Korea about the crash.

Los Angeles Times:

North Korea’s first air division’s 24th regiment is headquartered in Uiju, just north of the border city of Sinuiju, and pilots frequently train near the Yalu River which forms the border with China.


3 Responses to “DPRK MiG crashes in China”

  1. Mike Saunders says:

    It is definitely a MiG-21 comparing pictures

    A MiG-15 is a really old plane and it could probably be counted on one hand how many are in flying condition. North Korea might have some, but they are so, so old I couldn’t believe any of them being still in flying condition.

  2. Mike Saunders says:

    One more point – the absence of fire means that the plane most likely ran out of fuel before crashing. My suspicion is that the DPRK air force doesn’t keep their fuel levels high enough to fly to Russia, nor apparently over the Chinese border.

  3. Hobby pilot says:

    Some more points, if these news are correct.

    1 Ejection seat didn’t work. Lack of maintenance? Could it even have been disabled, to prevent defections? MiG 21 is impossible to crash-land survivably.

    2 Pilot lost his way. Not enough flying hours to maintain skills? Those planes are expensive to operate. Also navigation instruments could have been decayed.