Romanian Rescue Helicopter Crashes During Search For Missing MiG-21 Fighter Jet (Updated)

Details are still coming in, but a Romanian Air Force IAR-330 Puma helicopter has crashed, killing all five individuals on board, after heading out on a mission to try to find one of the service’s MiG-21 Lancers. The fate of that fighter jet remains unclear after it went missing while flying over the Black Sea.

The Romanian Ministry of Defense said the IAR-330 came down near Gura Dobrogei, approximately 11 kilometers (~7 miles) from Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base where it had taken off. An official statement said that contact with the helicopter was lost after the pilot had reported bad weather and had been told to return to base. A second IAR-330 that was expected to also head out to look for the MiG-21 was subsequently grounded.

A screenshot of the statement on Facebook showing the machine translation of its contents., Romanian Ministry of National Defense via Facebook

That same statement said that there is still no information on what happened to the MiG-21. 

A stock picture of a Romanian Air Force IAR-330 helicopter similar to the one that crashed while searching for the missing MiG-21 Lancer., Romanian Ministry of National Defense
A Romanian MiG-21 Lancer., USAF

Contact was lost with the Lancer shortly after it took off from Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base, which is situated near Constanța on Romania’s Black Sea coast, on a routine patrol mission earlier this evening. In addition to the IAR-330, Romania’s Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, or ISU, had dispatched teams based in Constanța to assist on the ground with the search for the missing jet, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

An earlier official statement on the missing MiG-21., Romanian Ministry of National Defense via Facebook

While we don’t know the circumstances behind either of these incidents yet, there is no indication at this time that foul play or hostile action of any kind was a factor in the crash of the IAR-330 or the MiG-21 going missing. There are signs that bad weather might have played a role in incidents.

At the same time, this all does come amid major regional tensions emanating from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Just yesterday, a pair of Romanian MiG-21s escorted a Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet back to that country’s airspace. That jet had landed in Romania for still unclear reasons on the first day of that conflict, January 24. You can read more about all of that in detail here.

Hopefully, Romanian authorities will be able to ascertain the fate of the MiG-21 soon and that the outcome there will turn out to be more positive.

Update 5:00 PM EST:

Romanian Ministry of National Defense has now issued a new statement, a copy of which along with translation is seen in full below, regarding the IAR-330 crash and the missing MiG-21. It now says that seven individuals died in the helicopter crash. The initial figure did not include two additional Romanian Navy personnel on board at the time of the incident.

Romanian Ministry of National Defense via Facebook

It’s unclear whether the MiG-21 crash site has been located, but this new statement says that, regardless, the pilot of that aircraft has not yet been found.

Video of the crashed IAR-330 has now emerged.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

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