TechSeries of losses diminish Russia's aerial warning capabilities, potentially easing the way for Ukraine's F-16s

Series of losses diminish Russia's aerial warning capabilities, potentially easing the way for Ukraine's F‑16s

A-50 Early Warning Aircraft
A-50 Early Warning Aircraft
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

6:44 AM EST, February 26, 2024

Ukrainian estimates suggest that Russia has already lost two A-50 Beriev early warning aircraft in 2024. The first was shot down on January 14 over the Azov Sea, a report confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny. The second downing occurred on February 23 when an upgraded A-50U model crashed in Krasnodar Krai.

Progressive decline in Russian aviation's 'eyes'

These are not the only A-50s removed from the Russian register of operational aircraft. In February 2023, saboteurs attacked a flying radar at a military airbase in Mochulischi, Belarus, bringing the total count of destroyed or damaged A-50 Beriev aircraft to three. Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, states that Russia now only has six A-50 aircraft. The Defense Romania service notes that only three of these appear to be modernized.

Budanov suggests that if Russia loses another A-50, it will be unable to maintain surveillance 24/7. In line with this, Pavlo Narozhny, a Ukrainian military expert, commented on Radio NV that the Russians' military operations would be considerably more challenging due to the A-50's radar range: 373 miles for airborne targets and 186 miles for land targets. This indicates that Russia will have to utilize the A-50 from safer distances, consequently reducing its effectiveness, particularly in regions like Donbass or Kherson.

The Eurasian Times reported that the assaults on the S-400 Triumph air defense systems and the elimination of the Russian AWACS fleet are happening in anticipation of the Western F-16 fighters' deployment to Ukraine. It was previously indicated that these two systems posed the most significant threats to them. Thus, it's plausible that the Ukrainians are getting ready in every conceivable way for the arrival of the F-16s, aiming to offer the best operational conditions.

Despite having a considerably larger military aviation, the Russians have been unable to secure air superiority over the Ukrainians. Fighters such as the Su-34 are required to fly over Ukraine at the lowest possible altitudes to avoid detection by enemy radars, which also limits the reach of their own sensors.

Similarly, the Russian AWACS work with MiG-31 fighters. Therefore, reducing their number could have major implications, particularly as Russia lacks advanced satellite reconnaissance capabilities, unlike Ukraine, which is supported in this area by Western allies.

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