Two Iranian fighter pilots killed in accident

International sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to maintain fighter jets bought nearly 40 years ago

Iran's F-5 fighter jet bought from the United States prior to the country's revolution
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Two Iranian fighter jet pilots were killed on Tuesday in an accident at a military airbase in the southwest of the country, state media reported.

The report, citing an informed source, identified the pilots as Kianoush Basati and Hossein Nami, without providing their rank.

The accident happened before the F-5 plane they were in took off from the base in Dezful, the city's governor Ali Farahmandpour was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. Dezful is a city within the Khuzestan province of Iran.

The governor of Khuzestan province also gave a statement regarding the deaths of the two pilots.

"I ask for God's forgiveness for these two precious martyrs, exaltation and companionship with the pure Imams and patience and forbearance for their honourable families," Qassem Soleimani Dashtaki said.

The airbase was closed off and the cause of the accident, initially described as "technical", was being investigated, he added.

Mr Farahmandpour said there was no "air accident or crash" and that further details on what happened would be made public after the investigation, according to state television's website.

Iran's armed forces still mainly use aircraft purchased from the United States before the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran had originally bought 140 F-5 jets from the US. Over half of the jets were destroyed during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the rest have been overhauled and repaired as time goes on.

But with years of international sanctions, Iran has struggled to maintain the jets due to the increasing difficulty of purchasing new parts.