On the 2nd of September 1958, Soviet MiG-17 pilots shot down a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance-configured C-130 aircraft over Soviet Armenia; 17 crewman were aboard. The MiGs attacked the unarmed aircraft after it inadvertently penetrated denied airspace. It crashed near the village of Sasnashen, 34 miles northwest of Yerevan, the Armenian capital.
The C-130 reconnaissance aircraft was readily recognizable as non-lethal. One MiG pilot identified it as a "four-engined transport." The C-130 (tail number 56-0528) crew members were based at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany, but were on temporary duty at Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey. The aircraft carried six flight crew members from the 7406th Support Squadron and 11 USAF "back-enders" from Detachment One of the 6911th Radio Group Mobile.
On this day, the C-130 departed Incirlik on a reconnaissance mission along the Turkish-Armenian border. It was to fly from Adana on the Mediterranean coast to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast, turn right and fly to Van, Turkey. From Van, the pilot was to reverse course and "orbit" (i.e., fly a race-track pattern) between Van and Trabzon. This course would parallel the Soviet frontier, but the aircraft was not to approach the border closer than 100 miles.
The aircraft's crew reported passing over Trabzon at an altitude of 25,500 feet. The crew acknowledged a weather report from Trabzon -- the last word heard from the flight.
What happened next is unclear. The C-130 crew may have become disoriented by Soviet navigational beacons in Armenia and Soviet Georgia, which were on frequencies similar to those at Trabzon and Van -- one signal in Soviet Georgia was stronger than that in Trabzon.
At that time, the Soviets denied downing the aircraft, claiming that the C-130 "fell" on their territory. On September 24, 1958, the Soviets returned six sets of remains, but, when queried, stated they had no information regarding the eleven missing crewmen. On February 6, 1959, seeking to get the Soviets to reveal more details, the United States in a session at the United Nations made public a tape recording of the Russian fighter pilots' conversations as they attacked the C-130. The Soviets continued to deny responsibility for the shootdown, and the fate of the remaining crew members remained unknown during the Cold War.
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