Russia Continues to Lose a Lot of Planes in Ukraine: The Kremlin has lost a significant number of aircraft in the skies over Ukraine, and on Tuesday, one Ukrainian Army commander even reportedly downed a Russian plane without firing a missile.
As commander of a Buk M1 anti-aircraft missile battery, Yaroslav Melnyk has “scored” a significant number of “kills,” which include destroying 28 targets in total, including 11 combat aircraft, two helicopters, two cruise missiles, and 13 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Melnyk has been fighting in the eastern Kharkiv region since the start of the invasion on February 24, Newsweek reported.
His impressive tally also includes one where his unit didn’t even fully deploy its full surface-to-air capabilities with the Buk’s illumination radar system, which is used to track and illuminate a target. Instead, simply by locking onto the target, the Russian pilot maneuvered away – and that quick reaction resulted in the pilot losing control of his aircraft.
“He realized that he had turned from being a hunter to being a target,” Melnyk explained. “This probably stunned the pilot so much that he immediately ejected. The plane crashed.”
The location and date of that incident were not specified, and while it hasn’t been independently verified, it isn’t the most unusual story of downed Russian fighters.
Valeriy Fedorovych, a pensioner who lives in the city of Chernihiv near the Belarus border, allegedly shot down a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jet with a rifle, which sent the advanced aircraft spiraling to the ground.
Russia’s Su-34 (NATO reporting name “Fullback”), a multirole derivative of the Su-27, is one of Russia’s most advanced and also most expensive fighters. Each reportedly costs around $36 million and Russia has been cautious about deploying the fighters – especially after one was shot down near the city of Kharkiv in April. Fedorovych retrieved some of the debris from the crash jet and keeps it in his garage as proof of his accomplishment.
Since news of his exploits spread, the Ukrainian State Border Service honored the pensioner, who has been hailed for his ‘heroism,’ and awarded him a medal.
Crash and Burn
Since launching its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia has failed to achieve air superiority and as a result, has seen a significant number of its aircraft downed.
Upwards of two dozen Sukhoi Su-35s have also been lost in the fighting, so much so that Moscow has been forced to deploy aging Su-24M bombers to fill the void. That in turn has resulted in less accurate strikes, in part due to an abundance of caution on the part of the Russian pilots. Of course, those antiquated fighter-bombers are also now increasingly being lost.
Moreover, not all the aircraft have been shot down.
A raid last month in occupied Crimea even caught several plans on the ground and resulted in the largest single-day loss of Russian air power since the invasion began. In total, the daring daylight raid at the Saki air base, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s 43rd Independent Naval Aviation Regiment, destroyed as many as eight Su-37 fighters, four Su-30 fighter-bombers, five Su-24 bombers, six Mi-8 helicopters, and one IL-20 telemetry aircraft.
The losses were so great that it was suggested it could reshape Russian air operations and force Russian squadrons to pull back.
Will China Help?
While it is doubtful that China will provide any aircraft to Russia, it was reported on Wednesday that Russian attack helicopters and fighter jets have been training with Chinese military units in recent days as part of the planned “Vostok-2022” maneuvers. It is unclear if the Russian units that took part in the recent exercises could be next deployed to Ukraine.
However, Moscow may have also used the Vostok-2022 exercises as a way to open dialog with its partners about the purchase of some military hardware. Russia is struggling to keep up with losses, and the issue is apparently so great that this week news circulated that the Kremlin was buying back millions of artillery shells and rockets from old Cold War-ally North Korea.
Perhaps Russia will need to reach out to other nations to buy some airplanes – it does seem to be running out of those.
Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.