Three crewmembers of a Tu-22M3 bomber were killed when their ejection seat accidentally triggered while on the ground at Shaykovka airbase, southwest of Moscow, Russia.
“On March 23, [2021,] the ejection system of a Tu-22M3 was accidentally triggered during a pre-flight check at the aerodrome in the Kaluga region,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said. “Due to an insufficient altitude for the parachutes to open, the three crew members were fatally injured as a result of their fall.”
An investigating team of the Russian Aerospace Forces was sent to Shaykovka airbase to conduct a technical examination of the aircraft and establish the causes of the accident, according to Interfax.
The Tu-22M is equipped with a KT-1M ejection system developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau. Given the nature of the incident, it is likely that the “forced ejection” procedure was triggered by the bomber’s commander. If that feature is activated, a sequence begins where the operator is ejected first, then the navigator, then the first officer, and finally the commander of the aircraft. The KT-1M is advertised as a “zero-zero” ejection seat, meaning it can safely be used from a stationary (zero airspeed, zero altitude) position.
The Tupolev Tu-22M is a strategic bomber with a variable-sweep wing developed during the Soviet era. It was later followed by several modernized versions, including the Tu-22M3 “Backfire”. Operated by four crew members, this variant can reach speeds above 2,000 km/h and deliver more than 12 tons of ordnance. It was recently deployed in Syria and is part of the Russian nuclear deterrence strategy.
On January 22, 2019, a Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber crashed while landing at Olenya base near Murmansk, in northern Russia, after a training mission. The aircraft was suspected to have been caught in a “snow squall”, an intense snowfall drastically reducing visibility, accompanied by a sharp increase in the wind.