TechRussia's A-50 early warning fleet status revealed by satellite images

Russia's A‑50 early warning fleet status revealed by satellite images

Early warning aircraft A-50
Early warning aircraft A-50
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons
10:47 AM EST, March 7, 2024, updated: 2:55 AM EST, March 8, 2024

It's important to recall that Russia lost two Beriev A-50 early warning aircraft this year, one on Sunday, January 14, and another on Friday, February 23. Subsequently, it was observed that Russia had at least one active A-50, as one was spotted at the Taganrog airport in the closing days of February. At that time, Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian intelligence, reported six aircraft in active service.

A-50 aircraft grounded at a Russian airport

MT_Anderson's recent investigation into the A-50's home base at Ivanovo Severny Airport, located approximately 435 miles from the Ukrainian border, discovered a diverse state of readiness among the aircraft. On the tarmac, there were four A-50s in active service, one operational but not currently in military use, and six A-50s with engines removed.
Defense Express highlighted that the operational status of four early warning aircraft was indicated by tracks in the snow at Ivanovo Severny Airport, showing movement towards the runway for potential observation missions. Yet, a notable finding was the inactivity of up to six A-50 aircraft, identified by the absence of engines, suggesting they are being used for parts.
Severnyy Airport
Severnyy Airport© Google Maps | Google Maps

The analysis suggests that all Russia's A-50 aircraft are likely based at this airport. Consequently, Russia appears capable of conducting reconnaissance missions with only four operational aircraft while the rest are immobilized, their state rendering them unfit for regular deployment.

Overview of the A-50 early warning aircraft

As the successor to the Tupolev Tu-126, the A-50 Beriev early warning aircraft is a significant asset for monitoring aerial objects within a 403-mile range. This Russian aircraft, equipped with a Liana radar system on its fuselage, can detect ground targets up to 186 miles away. This dual capacity facilitates ground support operations, observation missions, and enemy interception efforts.

The A-50 measures nearly 164 feet in length and 49 feet in height, with a wingspan of roughly 165 feet. Four Soloviev D-30KP turbojet engines power it, each providing 26,455 pounds of thrust. This enables the aircraft to reach up to 528 miles per hour and operate at altitudes as high as 42,651 feet. The A-50 Beriev's maximum range extends to about 4,536 miles.

A-50 airplanes without engines at the airport. Machines that do not perform flights.
A-50 airplanes without engines at the airport. Machines that do not perform flights.© X | MT_Anderson
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