A Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft crashed Oct. 16 at approximately 5 p.m. local time during exercise Clear Sky 2018 in the Khmelnytskyi region, Ukraine. One U.S. service member and one Ukrainian service member died in the crash.
The Air Force Oct. 17 identified the pilot as Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring, a pilot with the California Air National Guard.
The Ukrainian pilot was identified as Col. Ivan Petrenko.
Nehring was a fighter pilot with the California Guard’s 194th Fighter Squadron, part of the 144th Fighter Wing out of Fresno, Calif.
He served with the 144th for 20 years, the Air Force said, beginning his career as an enlisted crew chief before being selected for a pilot slot and becoming an officer. He flew the F-16 Viper for 15 years and later switched to the F-15 Eagle.
“We are a close-knit family, and when a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the 144th Fighter Wing feels it,” Col. Daniel Kelly, commander of the 144th, said in the 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.”
The Airman was taking part in a single-aircraft familiarization flight with a Ukrainian counterpart. No other aircraft were involved in the incident. The identity of the service member is being withheld for 24 hours pending next of kin notification.
“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” said Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, California ANG commander and Clear Sky exercise director. “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.”
Exercise Clear Sky 2018 is a joint and multinational exercise that involves approximately 950 personnel from nine nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of collaboration between the California ANG and Ukraine as part of U.S. European Command’s State Partnership Program. This program has been successfully building relationships with our partners and allies in over 75 nations around the globe.
The U.S. and Ukrainian governments are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.