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Serious Blow: Ukraine downs Russia’s top Command Aircraft

On Sunday, Ukrainian air defense forces shot down two Russian Air Force aircraft, including a Beriev A-50 early-warning aircraft and an Ilyushin Il-22 command post aircraft. This was reported by “Forbes” citing Ukrainian sources.

According to Kyiv Independent, the Il-22, a propeller-driven aircraft for up to ten people used for relaying radio signals and coordinating frontline operations, was hit near the Sea of Azov. An alleged audio recording of the crew requesting immediate medical assistance and firefighting support was released by the Ukrainian RBC Radio.

Russian Air Force loses rare aircraft

The downings are particularly remarkable because the Russian Air Force had only about 30 Il-22 and their variants left after the loss of one of these valuable aircraft by the Wagner Group in Western Russia in June. Even rarer are the Beriev early-warning aircraft.

The A-50, the Russian equivalent of the American Boeing E-3 early-warning aircraft, has a radar dome that can detect aircraft within a radius of up to 400 kilometers. The 15-member crew of the A-50 monitors hostile aircraft and coordinates the flights of allied aircraft. According to Forbes, the Russian Air Force has only nine A-50Ms and modernized A-50Us left.

If Ukraine indeed hit both the Il-22 and the A-50, it would be the most severe blow to the Russian Air Force since the expansion of the Russian war against Ukraine 23 months ago.

Electronic attacks weaken Russian air defense

The question arises of how this was possible. The best Ukrainian air defense systems, the American Patriot PAC-2, can hit targets at a distance of 145 kilometers. A-50s and Il-22s normally operate at the outer limit of this range. However, it appears that the command aircraft had difficulties overcoming electromagnetic interference. A report by the Royal United Services Institute in London in 2022, authored by Justin Bronk, Nick Reynolds, and Jack Watling, points out that the A-50 can be relatively easily affected by electronic attacks.

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