The Russian Air Force Has Lost Another One Of Its A-50 Radar Planes

Incredibly, the Russian Air Force lost another one of its rare Beriev A-50M/U Mainstay early warning radar aircraft. Video which circulated online on Friday reportedly shows the burning wreckage of the A-50 in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, just east of the Sea of ​​Azov.

The location of the crash, at least 120 miles (190 kilometers) from the front line in southern Ukraine, could indicate that the four-engine, 15-person radar plane either suffered a mechanical failure or suffered a blow while operating closer to the front and trying to avoid the crash . it returned to its base in Krasnodar before exploding.

For what it’s worth, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed it shot down the A-50 with the help of the Intelligence Directorate in Kiev.

Either way, it’s a devastating blow to Russia’s battered air force. The Air Force has lost nine of its best aircraft in just a month, mostly to Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles, particularly American-made Patriot PAC-2s. Including an A-50 that the Ukrainians attacked over the Sea of ​​Azov in January.

Before the earlier shooting, the Russian Air Force had only nine modernized A-50M/Us. Now there are only seven, of which only a few are active at any time.

The A-50s play an important supporting role in Russia’s two-year war against Ukraine. They help detect incoming Ukrainian missile attacks and also relay radio signals from frontline troops to their headquarters, which may be hundreds of miles away.

Early in their broader war against Ukraine, the Russians deployed A-50s north and south of free Ukraine, but kept them at bay to avoid the risk of Ukrainian S-300 air defense batteries with their 75-mile range missiles to minimize.

Over time the Russians became bolder. “There is a realistic possibility that Russia will accept more risk by flying Mainstay closer to the front line,” the UK Ministry of Defense says noted in November.

But that boldness backfired when the Ukrainian air force deployed the three Patriot batteries it received from Germany and the United States. A Patriot PAC-2 has a range of 90 miles. Far enough to hit an A-50 flying over the Sea of ​​Azov.

The first loss of the A-50 scared the Russians. They began flying their southern A-50 orbit overland around Krasnodar instead of further west over the sea. This move was “very likely indicative of reduced risk appetite.” according to the British ministry.

But that reduced risk appetite could not save the second A-50.

As much as the loss of the airframe hurts, the loss of fifteen experienced pilots could hurt even worse. Russian air operations “are limited by the availability of pilots with sufficient experience to carry out important missions,” analysts Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds wrote in a recent study for the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Russian industry is reportedly working overtime to modernize a new A-50 to replace the first destroyed aircraft. The costs – potentially hundreds of millions of dollars – are significant. Meanwhile, the Russians are rapidly losing their ability to control the skies over southern Ukraine.

Still, it is unlikely that the Ukrainian air force can continue shooting down Russia’s best planes at its current pace. Four months after Russia-linked Republicans began blocking U.S. aid to Ukraine, the supply of Ukrainian Patriots is falling to critical levels. according to Anton Gerashchenko, former advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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