04:22 GMT +325 October 2016
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    MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Commander-in-chief of the Air Force of Russia Vladimir Mikhailov announced that Russia's Ministry of Defense would resume the flights of the Tu-160 strategic bombers.

    "The Tu-160's flights will recommence on January 16-17," he said.

    The flights of the Tu-160 were discontinued on September 18, 2003 when the Mikhail Gromov strategic bomber crashed in the Saratov Region (the Middle Volga area), returning from a mission.

    It was the first case of this kind during 17 years of the Tu-160's operation. Four crewmen perished in the crash. The aircraft did not carry any combat arms. The task of the flight was "to test the aviation equipment" after the replacement of an engine.

    "As the investigation found out, at a height of 1,200 m the fuel tanks got destroyed, fragments of the aircraft's design then separated, and a fire emerged, which caused the loss of the bomber," the Aviation Flight Safety Service of Russia's Armed Forces (SBP VVS) reported.

    "Despite the fact that the pilots left the falling aircraft, the shock wave destroyed elements of the rescue system, specifically the cupola, which caused the death of the crewmen," the SBP VVS officials noted.

    The Tu-160 crew was recommended for decoration with state awards.

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