A Russian military aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off Jableh in Syria on Thursday shortly after taking off from an air base in Latakia province, the TASS news agency reported. Both the pilots on board the plane died.

“At 9.45 am on May 3, a Russian Sukhoi-30SM fighter crashed in the Mediterranean during the climb shortly after taking off from the Khmeimim airdrome,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement. “As follows from an onsite report, both pilots tried to keep the plane under control till the last moment.”

Preliminary investigation suggested that birds might have hit the plane, Reuters reported.

The Sukhoi-30SM is among Russia’s most advanced fighter jets, and were launched in 2012. In Syria, Russian security forces use it to target rebel positions, and to escort attack jets and strategic bombers.