Russia's loss of a Beriev A-50 spy aircraft recently downed by Ukraine won't dramatically affect the distribution of forces in the Ukrainian sky but will likely force Russia's aviation "to behave more cautiously," Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat told Ukrainska Pravda on Jan. 16.
A day before, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi confirmed that the Ukrainian Air Force had destroyed a Russian A-50 military observation plane and an Ilyushin Il-22 plane that operates as an airborne command post.
According to the Air Force, the Il-22 managed to land in Russia after it was hit but can not be repaired.
Russia's A-50 aircraft provides several critical functions for the ongoing war in Ukraine, such as detecting air defense systems, guided missiles, and coordinating targets for Russian fighter jets. Russia only possesses nine of these planes.
It is unclear how the planes were brought down, but Ukraine received several pieces of advanced air defense systems in 2023, including Patriots from the U.S., which some analysts have alleged could have been responsible.
"The Air Force can now deliver such effective strikes, so the aggressor will probably behave more cautiously. Of course, this is a serious blow to Russian aviation, and most importantly, to the image of the Russian regime," Ihnat said in a comment for Ukrainska Pravda media outlet.
"The loss of such a plane as the A-50 probably happened for the first time in history. At the same time, Russia still has several long-range radar detection aircraft in working order, and the dictator is not going to stop."
Ukraine has destroyed at least seven Russian planes since the beginning of December, a landmark military achievement for the country and a significant blow to Russia.
The sharp uptick in downing planes in recent weeks emerges as a bright spot for Ukraine amid a lack of progress on the battlefield.