A Ukrainian fighter jet crashed during a joint exercise with U.S. and other NATO air forces Tuesday, killing both pilots, Ukraine’s military said.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said the two-seat Su-27UB went down in the Kmelnitskyi region. It said a rescue team found the jet’s two pilots dead.
The U.S. Air Force confirms that one of the fallen fighter pilots was based in Fresno, Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring, with the California Air National Guard’s 194th Fighter Squadron, part of the 144th Fighter Wing.
The other pilot was Col. Ivan Petrenko, a Ukrainian service member.
“We are a close-knit family and when a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the 144th Fighter Wing feels it,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Kelly, commander of the 144th FW in a news release.
“We share in the sorrow felt by Jethro’s loved ones and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as well as those of the Ukrainian aviator.”
Nehring served in the 144th for more than 20 years. In his career, he served as an enlisted crew chief, and pilot of the F-16 Viper and F-15 Eagle.
Personnel from nine nations are taking part in the Clear Sky 2018 exercises that started in Ukraine on Oct. 8. They include members of a California Air National Guard unit based in Fresno.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)