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Air Force: Russia has not used A-50 aircraft for days

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 27, 2024 1:52 PM 2 min read
Russian airborne early warning and control aircraft Beriev A-50U on March 10, 2017.
Russian airborne early warning and control aircraft Beriev A-50U on March 10, 2017. (Sergey Lutsenko/Wikimedia Commons)
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Russia has not deployed an A-50 early warning and control aircraft for days, Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said on air on Feb. 27 after Russia lost its second plane of this model.

The Russian Air Force has recently lost two of its A-50 planes, one in January and another on Feb. 23, reportedly due to Ukrainian attacks. One such aircraft costs around $330 million.

"The intensity of the A-50 aircraft's use has decreased. They have been gone for several days," Ihnat said.

"They (Russia) decided not to send more and more planes... they have only a few such special equipment pieces in service."

The spokesperson reminded that in addition to the two destroyed planes, one was reportedly damaged in Belarus last year, and the extent of its repairs remains unclear.

The plane stationed at the Machulishchy airfield near Minsk was damaged in a series of explosions in February 2023 in an alleged attack by Belarusian partisans.

Air Force: Ukraine shoots down another Russian A-50 aircraft over Azov Sea
The Ukrainian Air Force downed another Russian A-50 military aircraft over the Azov Sea, Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk reported on Feb. 23.

According to Ihnat, Russia is considering whether further use of A-50 planes is worth the risk.

Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said on Feb. 25 that Russia has only six planes of this model left in service. Should Moscow lose one more, it would be unable to operate them round-the-clock, he added.

The 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.

After the downing of the first plane, the U.K. Defense Ministry noted that Russia began flying the second aircraft further eastwards from Ukraine within Russian territory near Krasnodar Krai. Moving the aircraft further away may result in a "loss to its overall effectiveness over Ukraine," the ministry said.

The second plane reportedly crashed in Krasnodar Krai upon its downing.

Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk reported earlier on Feb. 27 a downing of a Russian Su-34 fighter jet, adding yet another successful hit to a string of Russian air power losses.

Ukraine previously downed a Su-34 on Feb. 21, a Su-34 and a Su-35S plane on Feb. 19, a Su-34 plane on Feb. 18, as well as two Russian Su-34 fighter jets and another Russian Su-35 combat aircraft on Feb. 17.

There are signs that the uptick in aircraft losses has caused Russia to change its aerial strategy, reducing the number of sorties flown by Russia's Air Force, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in December 2023.

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