Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring Was USAF F-15 Pilot Who Died In Su-27 Crash In Ukraine

The U.S. Air Force has identified its pilot who died when a Ukranian Air Force Su-27UB Flanker he was riding in crashed on Oct. 16, 2018. The mishap occurred during a familiarization flight as part of Exercise Clear Sky 2018. A Ukrainian pilot was also killed in the incident. It’s customary for USAF units exchange flights with local fighter pilots they are training with during major exercises overseas and especially if the other side has aircraft that are threat representative. 

Statements from both U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), which is responsible for all Air Force operations in Europe, and the Office of California Governor Edmund Brown, identified the American aviator as U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Seth “Jethro” Nehring, a 44-year old F-15 Eagle pilot from Fresno, California who was assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 194th Fighter Squadron, part of the 144th Fighter Wing. The U.S. and Ukrainian governments are continuing to investigate the incident. 

“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” Major General Clay Garrison, the head of the California Air National Guard and the top officer in charge of Clear Sky 2018, said in a USAFE press release. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and fellow Airmen of both the U.S. Airman and Ukrainian aviator who were killed in the incident.”

“On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor California Air National Guard Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring, who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation,” the release from Governor Brown’s office read. “The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

A Ukranian Su-27UB like the one Lieutenant Colonel Seth “Jethro” Nehring was flying in at the time of the crash., Oleg Belyakov via Wikimedia

Clear Sky 2018 has otherwise been an immensely significant event for the pilots from the 144th Fighter Wing, who are among the approximately 950 personnel from nine countries, including the United States, who are taking part in the exercise. It is the first time ever that the unit has brought its F-15C Eagles to Ukraine and is the first time the Air Force has deployed this kind of aircraft to the country since 1998, according to

Our deepest condolences to Jethro’s family and friends. 

We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Update: 5pm PDT—

We are now getting additional information on the Jethro. A post on the 144th Fighter Wing’s Facebook page reads: 

It’s with a heavy heart we share the news that we lost a member of our team yesterday. Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring, assigned to the 194th Fighter Squadron, was killed yesterday in an SU-27 plane crash in Ukraine. Jethro was deployed to Ukraine for the Clear Sky 2018 exercise.

He was serving as the Operations Officer in the Joint Operations Center, meaning he was the liaison between the exercise director, Maj. Gen. Garrison and all flying operations. He was handpicked for this position due to his operational experience and long history with our unit.

Jethro has been a member of the 144th family for over 20 years. He began his career here as an enlisted crew chief before being selected for a pilot slot and flew the F-16 Viper for over 15 years and converted to the F-15 Eagle.

A loss of any kind is always difficult and our thoughts and prayers go out to Jethro’s family and friends.

God speed Jethro!

We also have some information on the Ukrainian pilot. Apparently, he was Colonel Petrenko Ivan Nikolaevich, deputy commander for aviation, the chief of air force air command Eastern Air forces of Ukraine. The report notes he was a fully qualified combat pilot and instructor. So it was a high-ranking commander who was the primary pilot in command of the Flanker. 

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