With an intense conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all eyes are on the losses the two militaries can mount on one another. While Ukraine shot down four Russian warplanes in the last 24 hours, Moscow has reportedly downed two Ukrainian MiG-29s armed with lethal missiles from the United States.
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Official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov announced on September 25 that two Ukrainian MiG-29 aircraft modified to employ US AGM-88 HARM missiles were shot down by Russian Aerospace Forces fighters in the Mykolaiv region, TASS news agency reported.
“Fighter aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the settlements of Novoukrainka and Bashtanka in the Mykolaiv region shot down two MiG-29 aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force, modified to use American HARM anti-radar missiles,” said the representative.
The development comes less than a month after a Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum was seen firing the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs) provided by the US for the first time in a video released by the Ukrainian Air Force on August 30. At the time, multiple HARM launches were captured on camera.
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The AGM-88 HARM reportedly offers Ukraine the ability to destroy opponent air defense, also known as SEAD/DEAD. The missile, when carried by a Ukrainian fighter jet, allows the aircraft to fly safely, assist ground troops, and take down Russian air defense radars.
However, the Ukrainian fighters were shot by Russian jets in what could be an air-to-air missile fire. The specifics of the incident, however, remain unknown.
One of the 🇺🇦 pilots has made a footage of the MiG-29 fighter jets combat operations.
🇺🇦 pilot Ivan dedicates this video to major Yevhen Lysenko, his fallen brother in arms, who heroically died in an aerial fight against the 🇷🇺 invaders on March 9. pic.twitter.com/eUVYIAboDr
— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) August 30, 2022
A local Russian-language media outlet stated that the destroyed MiG-29 aircraft was the 54th and 55th MiG-29 shot down by the Russian forces since the invasion was launched in February. However, according to open sources, the Ukrainian Air Force had 36 MiG-29s in its inventory as of 2022.
In August, Slovakia announced it was ready to send 11 archaic MiG fighters to Ukraine. The latter appealed for more supplies from NATO nations to boost its ability to battle invading Russian forces. However, it was not officially confirmed whether such delivery had taken place.
Besides the MiG-29, the first aircraft to integrate the AGM-88 HARM missile, the Su-27 now wields the advanced American missile. The Ukrainian Air Force adapted the American AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface anti-radiation missiles for use with Su-27 fighters earlier this month.
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Since the HARM missile is a recent high-end weapon that has been added to the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ arsenal, there is a lot of hysteria regarding the weapon. In the video released earlier, the missile was carried on the inner underwing pylons of the MiG-29, typically used to mount the R-27R.
‘Ukraine Weapons Tracker,’ an OSINT Twitter handle that tracks the war in Ukraine, informed recently that the Ukrainian Air Force is employing the AGM-88 missiles using the standard LAU-118/A launcher mounted on a newly fabricated pylon adapter.
The LAU-118/A missile launcher is the mechanical and electrical interface between the launch aircraft, typically an American F-16 or F/A-18, and the AGM-88 missile. In this case, it establishes a connection between the MiG-29 or Su-27 and the Anti-Radiation missiles.
According to sources, the Ukrainian military uses the AGM-88D variant of the HARM missile. The AGM-88D has GPS integrated into its inertial navigation system (INS), unlike earlier generations, which would use INS to flow to the overall target region before using a passive seeker to focus on emitters.
— Giorgi Revishvili (@revishvilig) August 30, 2022
The AGM-88D may operate in the Pre-Briefed Mode, in which the missile is already given the coordinates of the enemy radar station, thanks to the integration of GPS and INS, as previously noted by EurAsian Times.
The head of US Air Forces in Europe, General James Hecker revealed earlier this month that it took “a couple of months” for defense contractors to outfit the Ukrainian Air Force’s MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters with American-made AGM-88 High-Speed Radiation Missiles, Breaking Defense reported.
“It was quite the effort,” said Gen. James Hecker during a roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber conference. “We have some early smart contractors that were able to make this happen. Now, is it as integrated as it is on an F-16? Of course not. So it doesn’t have all the capabilities that it would on an F-16.”
According to Hecker, the Ukrainians have shot down at least 55 Russian aircraft throughout the conflict, primarily using SA-10 and SA-11 surface-to-air missiles. This figure increases to almost 60 warplanes when casualties on the ground are considered.
However, the Russian downing of the HARM-missile armed MiG-29 fighter jets is significant as the American missile has been touted as quite a gamechanger for the Ukrainian military, just like the ground-based HIMAR system that has wreaked havoc on the Russian positions.
More specific details of the downing of the two Ukrainian MiG-29s remain unknown. However, the development comes when Ukraine’s Kherson Region and large swathes of the neighboring Zaporizhzhia Region, controlled by Russian troops, are holding five-day referendums on joining Russia.