An Iranian F-5 fighter jet crashed into a school complex in the northwestern city of Tabriz on Monday, killing two crew members and a passerby, authorities said.
“Fortunately, the school was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” local official Mohammad-Bagher Honarvar told state television.
The aircraft was on a training mission when it crashed into the cityMonajem’s central district, said Honavar, who heads a crisis management unit in East Azerbaijan province.
The head of the local Red Crescent organization said the plane had crashed into an exterior wall and one of the dead was a nearby resident.
A fire broke out at the crash site and firefighters were seen fighting the flames as a crowd watched, on video footage from the official IRNA news agency.
The charred remains of the fighter plane could be seen among the rubble of the school’s blackened facade.
The plane was stationed at Shahid Fakouri Air Force Base in Tabriz, base commander General Reza Youssefi told the broadcaster, adding that it was on its way back from the training mission when it encountered a technical problem that prevented it from landing.
– Outdated fleet –
Iran’s Air Force has some 300 fighters, mostly Russian MiG-29 and Sukhoi-25 fighters dating back to the Soviet era, as well as Chinese F-7s and French Mirage F1s.
The fleet also includes some US F-4 and F-5 jets dating back to the regime of the Western-backed Shah, who was ousted during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Experts say only a few of these planes are operational.
In August 2006, Iran announced that it had developed a new fighter jet called “Azarakhsh” (Lightning), which it described as being similar to the F-5.
A year later, it unveiled another homegrown aircraft it named “Saegheh” (Thunder), saying it was similar to the US F-18.
But some Western military experts have said the Saegheh is a derivative of the F-5.
Monday’s fighter jet crash was the first military aircraft accident reported by Iran since December 2019.
At the time, according to official media, a MiG-29 fighter plane crashed into a dormant volcano in the northwest of the country during a test flight.
Three days later, the military confirmed the pilot’s death.
In January 2019, a military cargo plane overshot a runway, crashed and caught fire during a failed landing near the capital Tehran.
At the time, the military said 15 people were killed in the accident.
A fighter jet also crashed in Tabriz during military exercises in September 2011, local media reported.
Iran has been subject to severe US sanctions since 2018, when the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal negotiated between Tehran and world powers three years earlier.
Talks are underway in Vienna to revive the deal and Iran is calling for sanctions to be lifted.