A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 12, 2024

Ukraine Shot Down 2 Russian AWACS. Then Blew Up Factory Where They're Built

After shooting down two strategically critical Russian AWACS planes within six weeks this winter, Ukraine has now attacked the factory where they are built and serviced, possibly eliminating a fourth undergoing final preparation there. 

The message is that Ukraine is going to continue attacking Russia's strategic assets wherever they may be. JL 

David Axe reports in Forbes:

Russia (invaded) Ukraine with 9 flyable A-50 radar planes, which sensor coverage over the front. The A-50s and 10 or 15 experienced officers who crew them are critical, hard-to-replace assets. After Ukraine shot down 2 A-50s this year, the Russian air force grounded its surviving A-50s and scrambled to replace the 3 lost planes through Beriev’s Aviation Technical Complex in Taganrog, Russia on the Azov Sea coast 80 miles from the front line. So of course the Ukrainians promptly droned the Taganrog factory. Ukraine damaged or destroyed their 4th A-50 in two years, and third in less than two months.

Russia went to war in Ukraine in February 2022 with no more than nine flyable Beriev A-50U/M radar planes, which extend sensor coverage over the front line.

The four-engine A-50s and the 10 or 15 experienced officers who crew each of them are critical and hard-to-replace assets. Which is why the Ukrainians have devoted scarce resources to finding and striking the $300-million planes.

A Ukrainian drone damaged an A-50 on the ground in Belarus last year. On Jan. 14, a long-range Ukrainian missile shot down an A-50 over the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine. Six weeks later on Feb. 23, another Ukrainian missile blew up a third A-50 in the same area.

The Russian air force swiftly grounded its surviving A-50s and scrambled to replace the two or three lost planes. That meant cycling at least one older and possibly unflyable A-50—out of several dozen Beriev built in the 1980s—through Beriev’s Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex in the Russian city of Taganrog, on the Azov Sea coast just 80 miles from the front line.

So of course the Ukrainians promptly droned the Taganrog factory. They obviously are determined to extinct the lumbering A-50 before the Russians can recover the species. The ostensible next-generation replacement for the A-50, the A-100, has been mired in testing for years and may never become a front-line aircraft.

It’s unclear exactly what happened in Taganrog and what the implications are. We know the Ukrainians targeted the Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex late Friday or early Saturday. We can surmise, from Russian reports, that it mostly was a drone assault.

Ukrainian analysis group Frontelligence Insight scrutinized satellite imagery to make sense of the chaos. The group focused on a building at the Beriev complex that it identified as the final-assembly facility for reconditioned A-50s and other large warplanes.

As recently as Feb. 29, an A-50 was parked outside the final-assembly shed. Perhaps the same repainted A-50 that Russian media recently heralded as proof that the Russian air force, despite the shoot-downs, still has plenty of the radar planes.

That same A-50 isn’t visible in the post-strike imagery. That could indicate that the plane was inside the assembly shed when the explosives-laden Ukrainian drones barreled in, inflicting visible damage on the shed’s roof.

“If the drones managed to penetrate the roof, the payload in the drones would be enough to cause damage to equipment and aircraft inside of the hangar,” Frontelligence explained. “However, there are no indications of a significant fire inside the hangar.”

In short, we can assume the Ukrainians at least came very close to damaging or destroying their fourth A-50 in two years—and their third in less than two months. And even if the drones missed, they sent a message to the Russian air force. Restore all the old A-50s you want. We’ll hunt them down, one by one.

Hilariously for friends of a free Ukraine, the Russian air force anticipated a Ukrainian strike on the Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex—and stationed a long-range surface-to-air missile battery adjacent to the complex.

It totally failed to prevent the overnight drone raid.


Post a Comment