The war in Ukraine continues to shock us with moments that defy our thoughts on the nature of warfare.
Do we know who will win this conflict? Not exactly.
We know that social media can teach us a lot:
Throughout the Ukraine conflict, video footage of aircraft flying low to the ground has been shared frequently on social media.
The footage demonstrates the skill of pilots in the Ukrainian Air Force, as well as the necessity of the Ukrainian forces to adapt to the threat of Russian surface-to-air missiles that can take out drones, helicopters, and planes.
What We Know
However, a clip shared back in October on Telegram shows a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter flying possibly lower than ever before.
In the video, the helicopter can be seen traveling along a highway while passenger vehicles and heavy goods vehicles travel in both directions on the road.
The helicopter weaves through the traffic in the center of the road, mere feet away from the tarmac.
The footage appears to have been recorded from a passenger vehicle and lasts only a few seconds.
Why Did the Helicopter Choose to Fly Along A Road?
Flying low to the ground is a tactic used by pilots in combat to avoid being detected by ground missile radars as well as advanced surface-to-air missile systems.
While Russian forces have famously struggled to access as many advanced missile systems as the troops need throughout the conflict, it remains true that Ukrainian aircraft are at risk of being located and destroyed by nearby Russian positions.
By flying as low to the ground as possible – and in this instance, as low to the road as possible – the Mi-24 helicopter has a lesser chance of being picked up by ground missile radars by remaining below the folds and peaks of the surrounding terrain.
The helicopter pilot also likely chose to follow the road as a way of avoiding natural obstacles in the surrounding fields, allowing the aircraft to reach its destination without needing to fly at a higher altitude.
Flying along the road also minimizes the number of bends and turns that the helicopter needs to make to reach its destination.
?? Mi-24 looow pass pic.twitter.com/6V1qftA4Uz
— MilitaryAviationInUa (@Ukraine_AF) October 20, 2022
Similar video footage shared at the time on Twitter shows what it’s like to fly these helicopters at such a low altitude from the pilot’s perspective.
Russian helicopters flying low, and extensive footage from Mi-24 Hind. pic.twitter.com/5A6JqUk9mr
— Taurevanime (@Taurevanime) October 19, 2022
The video not only shows the pilot controlling the aircraft at high speeds and low altitudes but also shows other Mi-24 and Mi-28 helicopters doing the same thing from a safe distance.
Many similar videos have gone viral on Twitter and other social media platforms over the last year of war in Ukraine.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.