Last week, the paramilitary organization Wagner Group marched against the Kremlin, resulting in chaos and a bleak outlook for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The short-lived insurrection caused visible reputational damage to the Kremlin chief and resulted in the loss of several Russian airframes.
According to The Kyiv Independent, the paramilitary group wiped out six Russian helicopters in addition to other aircraft.
Several sources reported differing figures, some alleging that two attack helicopters and four transport aircraft were destroyed. Obtaining accurate data surrounding the Ukraine invasion has been difficult since the onset of the war, however, since both Kyiv and Moscow manipulate numbers to support their respective war agendas.
What Airframes Did the Wagner Group Wipe Out?
The open-source Netherlands-Based weapons tracker site Oryx has become a reputable source that tracks weapons and casualties in the war. Following the rebellion, the site documented evidence that a Mi-35 attack helicopter, a Ka-52 attack helicopter, three Mi-8 electronic-warfare helicopters, one M-I transport, and one Il-22M airborne command post during the rebellion. The Euromaidan Press Twitter handle released footage alleging to depict the wreckage of the Ka-52 airframe believed to be downed by Wagner forces over the weekend.
Russia’s Airframes Won’t Bode Well in Light of Kyiv’s Counteroffensive
Already reeling from significant airframe losses from its Ukraine invasion, the current status of Moscow’s aerial arsenal is abysmal. Last month, news of a deadly crash involving two Russian fighter jets and two military transport helicopters circulated widely. Perhaps one of the worst crashes for Russia since the early days of the invasion, the downing of a Su-34, two Mi-8s, and a Su-35 was significant. Ukraine recently began its counter-offensive and could have been behind both crashes. As outlined by The Wall Street Journal, Kyiv possesses American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which have been delivered by Poland, the UK, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members.
Experts Believe Russia Has Lost More Airframes than Ukraine in the War
In March, America’s top Air Force commander in Europe said that Kyiv was responsible for the downing of at least 70 Russian aircraft since February 2022. Experts believe Russia has not been able to shoot down the same number of Ukrainian planes. “[Russia has] downed over 60 Ukrainian aircraft. Ukraine’s downed over 70 Russian aircraft,” General James B. Hecker told the audience at the Air and Space Forces Symposium. “So, both of their integrated air and missile defense, especially when you’re talking about going against aircraft, they’ve been very effective. And that’s why they’re not flying over one another’s country.”
Russia’s ‘special military operation’ was intended to be a brief invasion and takeover of Kyiv. Over the last eighteen months of warfare, however, Russia has suffered staggering losses ranging from personnel to munitions and heavy weaponry. Analysts estimate that nearly two-thirds of Russia’s modern MBT fleet has been wiped out, captured, or abandoned on the battlefield. The trajectory of Moscow’s airframe losses appears to be headed in a similar direction.
Now that Kyiv’s counter-offensive is well underway, Russia’s already dwindling resources – including modern airframes – will continue to take hits at the hands of Ukraine’s forces.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.