One of the first examples of the platform Russia intends to use to launch its new hypersonic missiles has crashed in a snowstorm in the Russian Arctic, killing three of four of the crew on board. The TU-22M3M supersonic bomber was on a training flight when it crashed while attempting to land at Olenegorsk airbase in the Murmansk region. TASS is reporting that local officials are citing weather and pilot error in the crash. The Russian government has grounded the upgraded aircraft pending an investigation.
The accident will likely be a setback for Russia’s plan to deploy its new hypersonic missiles, which President Vladimir Putin announced with fanfare last month. The modernized TU-22 is a foundation of Putin’s bid to strengthen the country’s air force and the first one flew less than a month ago. The aircraft has new avionics, navigation and communications equipment and is designed to carry Russia’s latest high-speed cruise missiles in addition to the hypersonic missiles. It was not carrying weapons when it crashed.