Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Ukraine Repels Massive Russian Air Attack; Claims Shooting Down Su-24 & Su-25 Fighters; Wreckage Of Su-34 Also Found

Ukraine claimed to have shot down two Russian combat aircraft and repelled Russian offensives nearten0 settlements, all within 24 hours.

According to the operational update released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on November 29, Ukrainian air defense forces shot down Russian Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft on November 28.

The operational update did not specify how these aircraft were shot down, and as of writing this article, there has been no manner of visual evidence to support Ukraine’s claims. Apart from that, there is no way to verify these assertions independently.

If true, this would be the latest addition to the series of losses suffered by Russia’s Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’ attack aircraft, which has sustained the most losses of any fixed-wing tactical jet type used in the ongoing war, as reported by EurAsian Times recently.

Sukhoi Su-25 - Wikipedia
File Image: Sukhoi Su-25 – Wikipedia

So far, Russia is known to have lost at least 23 Su-25s, according to the figures compiled by the military tracking blog Oryx based on visual confirmations. Of those 23, four are believed to have been destroyed in non-combat-related incidents.

These heavy losses suffered by the Russian Su-25 fleet can be attributed to its wide deployment for ground attacks using tactics that require the fighter pilots to fly their aircraft dangerously close to the ground, mainly to avoid detection by the enemy’s radar systems.

However, this low-flying tactic exposes the aircraft to hostile MANPADS that have accounted for most of the aircraft shoot-downs by both sides, as discussed at a great length in an earlier EurAsian Times report.

As for the Su-24, Ukraine’s operational update did not specify whether it was a Su-24M bomber variant or the Su-24MR reconnaissance variant.

The Russian military does not seem to be using the Su-24M bomber much, presumably because the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) operates a relatively large fleet of Su-34 bombers which are far more capable than the Su-24M and are intended to replace it eventually.

A Su-24 in flight (Wikipedia)

This is also corroborated by the tally of Russian losses for its Su-34 and Su-24 fleets by the Oryx blog, which stands at 17 and 8, respectively.

Notably, all eight Russian Su-24s were either destroyed on the ground or lost in a noncombat-related incident. At least five of them were destroyed in explosions at a Russian air base in the Saki town in Crimea on August 9, which reportedly resulted in the most significant losses the Russian air force suffered in a single day since the onset of the Ukraine war.

According to western experts, the country’s air defenses were barely ready in the initial days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian military’s long-range S-300 missile batteries were mostly dependent on hundreds of fixed radar installations.

Sukhoi Su-24MR at Kubinka airbase (Wikipedia)

The VKS’ Su-24MRs were able to locate these radar installations, which enabled the service’s Su-34 fighter bombers operating alone at around 3,600 meters to destroy hundreds of Ukrainian radars in the initial weeks of the war.

Loss of radars denied the Ukrainian S-300 crews the early warning needed to engage Russian fighter jets like Su-30SM and Su-35S, which only left the Ukrainian Air Force’s MiG-29 and Su-27 air defense fighters to defend the country’s vast air space.

Wreckage Of Su-34 Fullback Found In Kharkiv

Interestingly, on the same day as the Russian Su-25 and Su-24 fighters were allegedly destroyed, it was also reported that the wreckage of a Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft was found in a field in the Kharkiv region.

The images of the burned-out Russian combat aircraft began doing the rounds on social media on November 28. Reports suggest the wreckage is of an aircraft previously shot down near the city of Kupiansk.

su-34
File Image: Su-34

According to OSINT analysts, the wreckage appears to be a part of the vertical fin of the Su-34 with a bort number Red 22.

Mike Yeo, a Singaporean aviation photographer, pointed out in a tweet that there are at least two Fullbacks carrying that Bort, but only the one with the serial number RF-95005 has an overall dark grey paint like the one seen in the image of the wreckage.

Based on this, Israeli defense analyst Guy Plopsky suggested the Su-34 in question probably belonged to the 47th Bomber Aviation Regiment based in Baltimor Air Base, Voronezh, while noting that this particular aircraft was also deployed in Syria.

Plopsky shared a screengrab of an old video of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) from 2016, in which a Su-34 with the serial number RF-95005 and bort number Red 22 is featured briefly while it was taking off from Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, armed with Kh-35U missiles.

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