TechRussian A-50 Spotted Near Donetsk, Signaling Ongoing Surveillance Operations

Russian A‑50 Spotted Near Donetsk, Signaling Ongoing Surveillance Operations

Early warning aircraft A-50
Early warning aircraft A-50
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons
6:56 AM EST, March 1, 2024

This Russian A-50, a long-range radar aircraft, is known for its capacity to monitor movements in the air, on land, and at sea. Satellite imagery shared by Planet Labs reveals that this particular aircraft is being stored in the city of Taganrog.

Interestingly, the A-50 was visible in a photo captured on February 29, 2024. However, the aircraft was absent from the airport just the day before, on February 28. This suggests that the plane is constantly in use, actively conducting surveillance.

Moreover, the presence of the A-50 in Taganrog might hint that the forces wish to shield and preserve one of their last aircraft of this kind in a secure location – though its proximity, about 62 miles from the front line, casts doubt on this theory being highly plausible.

Losses of Russian A-50 reconnaissance aircraft

In 2024, the Russian forces experienced the loss of two A-50 Beriev early warning aircraft. The first incident occurred on January 14 over the Sea of Azov, the second on February 23 in the Krasnodar Territory. Consequently, the limited fleet of reconnaissance aircraft continues to shrink, leaving only six A-50s in active service, as noted by Kyryl Budanov, chief of Ukrainian intelligence. Any further losses would critically impact Russian aviation's capacity for continuous surveillance.

The A-50 Beriev, a successor to the Tupolev Tu-126, was designed to detect and track airborne objects up to about 404 miles away. It can also monitor ground (up to about 186 miles) and maritime targets, aiding observation missions and ground attack support. Measuring nearly 164 ft in length with a wingspan of 165.6 ft, this substantial aircraft can reach speeds up to 559 mph and operate at altitudes of about 8 miles, with a flight range of approximately 4660 miles. The estimated production cost for each A-50 is around 330 million dollars.

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