Home » They are on the defensive on the ground, but Ukraine suddenly shoots one Russian plane after another out of the sky

They are on the defensive on the ground, but Ukraine suddenly shoots one Russian plane after another out of the sky

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Three more Russian bombers were reportedly shot out of the sky on Thursday. “A first Su-34 bomber was shot down shortly after midnight, followed by two others during the morning, near Avdiivka and Mariupol,” said Oleksandr Syrskyi, the recently appointed commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army.

With those three, the number of downed Russian aircraft in the past thirteen days would be thirteen. This would mainly involve Su-34s, but also two rare and very valuable Beriev A-50 radar aircraft. The Russians reportedly only had a maximum of nine of those flying radars, which see everything up to 350 kilometers away, can direct other aircraft and cost more than 300 million euros each. The price of one Su-34 could also easily rise to 50 million euros.

If the reports are correct, the Russian air force would have lost more than a billion euros worth of aircraft in less than two weeks. A huge blow, especially when you consider that at the beginning of the war the Russians lost an average of “only” four aircraft per month.

“It looks more and more like F-16s are having fun in Ukrainian airspace”

Sergey Sumlenny

Ukraine expert


For the time being, it cannot be said with certainty to what exactly the Ukrainians owe their recent successes in the air. Experts believe Kiev may have moved one of its American-made Patriot air defense systems, used until now to protect the capital, to the front line where Ukrainian forces are facing heavy Russian bombardments, especially in the east.

However, the distance at which the A-50 was shot down last Friday – almost 200 kilometers – indicates that a missile system with an even longer range was involved. It may be an S-200 that was used during the Cold War but has now been brought back into circulation by the Ukrainian air force.

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The usually well-informed Ukraine expert Sergei Sumlenny thinks that F-16s may already be deployed – in complete secrecy. “It looks more and more like F-16s are having fun in Ukrainian airspace,” he wrote a few days ago on X (formerly Twitter). However, it remains a matter of theories, because although F-16s are known to be very efficient in dogfights, none have yet been spotted over Ukraine.

“The enemy has overcome his fear of using their planes directly over the battlefield”

Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies

Russian hubris

This may also be due to Russian overconfidence. They know they have the momentum at the front and now want to push forward. The result: they carry out more flights closer to the front line, which naturally makes the planes more sensitive to counter-attacks. “The enemy has overcome their fear of using their aircraft directly over the battlefield,” reports the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies. “Although this results in a greater loss of aircraft, it gives their ground forces a significant firepower advantage.”

The question is: how long can the Russians continue to use that tactic? Although ‘in theory’ they have more than enough aircraft, in practice that number is much smaller because not all aircraft are combat-ready. “The Russian Air Force is dangerously close to total collapse,” Forbes reports. “They are losing planes faster than they can afford. The sanctions-hampered Russian aerospace industry is having all the trouble in the world to build more than a few dozen new aircraft per year.”

Russian military authorities did not comment on the alleged losses.

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