The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed on Wednesday that the Russian military shot down one of its own Sukhoi Su-35S (NATO reporting name Flanker M) multi-role combat jets over the Ukrainian city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region last Thursday.
The incident occurred about 20km (12.5 miles) from the current front lines.
It is reported to be the fifth loss of a Su-35S, which is the Kremlin’s most advanced combat jet in widespread service. Russia has lost around 90 fixed wing aircraft since the start of the war.
“The location is relevant because Tokmak is a heavily fortified town which often hosts Russian headquarters commanding one of the most intensely contested sectors of the front line,” the MoD announced via its recent intelligence update posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“These headquarters would typically be protected with dedicated short and medium range air defence systems. These are almost certainly held at very high readiness, as Ukraine continues to conduct effective deep strikes against such locations,” the MoD added.
The Dutch open-source intelligence outlet Oryx, which has tracked losses in the ongoing war, had confirmed that Moscow had lost four Su-35 fighters since February 24, 2022. That did not include the jet that was likely shot down last week.
Russia Has Remained Silent
It was late last week that reports first circulated that Russian forces had downed one of its own jets, but the Kremlin has not commented or confirmed the incident. However, military bloggers and open-source intelligence accounts first reported the incident last Friday.
It is not an isolated occurrence.
Newsweek cited Western analyst data that found that Russia’s air force has an unusually high rate of self-inflicted losses. More than a fifth of Russia’s known manned aircraft and helicopter losses in Ukraine were not downed due to enemy action. A number of factors may come into play, including restricted training time, few experienced pilots, and the pressures from constant combat.
The Sukhoi Su-35 in the Crosshairs
The Kremlin has long touted the capabilities of the Su-35, which is actually just a heavily upgraded derivative of the Su-27 aircraft. According to its designers, as a multirole fighter, the Su-35 can be used in a variety of missions and is capable of attacking ground and naval targets, including infrastructural facilities shielded by air defense systems, as well as those located at a considerable distance from home airfields.
The Russian fighter jet can deploy air-to-air missiles of up to 300 kilometers (190 miles), well beyond visual range, and it can also be armed with the heavy Oniks anti-ship cruise missile, as well as a multitude of air-to-ground weaponry. It can carry up to eight tons of the weapon payload (missiles and bombs of various types) on a dozen underwing hardpoints, while the fighter jet’s other armament includes a 30mm aircraft gun.
It may all sound very good on paper, but so far Russia’s best hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. And as of last week, Russia has one fewer in its arsenal and Ukraine didn’t even have to shoot it down.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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