A North Korean MiG-19 fighter jet crashed during a training exercise Tuesday, according to South Korean military officials.
The crash occurred near Taetan Air Base in South Hwanghae Province during a training exercise of the Korean People’s Army Air and Anti-Air Force.
All aircraft in North Korean airspace have reportedly been grounded since the accident occurred. Pyongyang is likely investigating the cause of the crash and taking other precautionary measures as well as inspecting the maintenance and condition of the rest of their aircraft.
South Korean authorities said that since it’s been more than 40 years since the introduction of the MiG-19, the accident may have been caused by the age and worn-out condition of the aircraft, but also could have been due to poor piloting skills.
The majority of North Korean aircraft are significantly older than those in most other air forces and KPA pilots receive very limited flight training, due to fuel and maintenance limitations. Recently, though, the KPA appears to have increased the frequency of its air force exercises, with the number of training flights doubling after North Korea’s third nuclear test in February of last year.
This is at least the third North Korean MiG-19 to crash this year. One reportedly crashed crashed earlier this month while another crashed earlier in the year.
North Korea currently operates both the Russian-made MiG-19, first developed in 1952 and produced into the 1970s, as well as the Chinese-made Shenyang J-6, which was built into the 1980s. North Korea is one of only three countries – along with Myanmar and Zambia – that still operate Russian-made MiG-19s. North Korea is believed to currently possess about 90 MiG-19s of both types.
Main photo: Beau Brendler, Flickr Creative Commons