The pilot of a Greek air force jet was killed when his fighter jet crashed in the Aegean Sea on Thursday, April 12, Greek media reported.
“A Greek pilot in the pantheon of heroes. He fell for faith and homeland fighting to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos tweeted.
The Mirage 2000-5 jet crashed on Thursday afternoon in the Aegean, 9 miles northeast of Skyros island, Greece’s Proto Thema English edition reported.
“We know that the aircraft was part of an operation to intercept Turkish jets but the incident is not related to the operation,” Proto Thema quoted Skyros’s mayor Miltiadis Chatzigiannakis as saying.
The jet was one of two from the Hellenic Air Force that was involved in an earlier interception of a Turkish jet that had violated Greek air space, Proto Thema and Kathimerini reported. The Turkish military said that Turkish jets were not in the region when the crash occurred, Millyet reported.
Kathimerini’s sources said they did not believe any hostile activity was involved.
Update, April 13: The pilot has been identified as 34-year-old Georgios Baltadoros, a father of two. Greek television network ERT reported that men in a fishing boat found Baltadoros’s body and partial remains of the plane on Thursday evening.
In an interview last month with the French daily Liberation, Kammenos said Greece is “very close to a fatal accident” with Turkey, referring to increasing airspace and maritime violations from Turkey.
Last May, another Greek Mirage 2000 crashed near Skopelos island after malfunctioning during a training exercise. The pilot of that aircraft ejected and survived.
At the time, Defense World reported that Greece had placed a $1.1 billion order for 15 new Mirage 2000-5 MKs in August 2000, as well as upgraded 10 existing Mirage 2000EGMs.
This story was updated on April 12 with news of the pilot’s death and additional background details, and on April 13 with the pilot’s name.