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Russia has been using its newest Sukhoi Su-57 combat jets, also known as Felon, to attack targets in Ukraine since at least June, but only from its own territory to avoid losing the aircraft, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Jan. 9. “This is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk-averse approach to employing its air force in the war,” reads the report.
Felon is Russia’s most advanced fifth-generation supersonic fighter jet, using stealth technologies and state-of-the-art avionics, according to the ministry.
Russian air forces have likely employed the FELON jets stationed at the Akhtubinsk Air Base around 500 kilometers from the Ukrainian border to launch long-range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into the country, the U.K. Defense Ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update. This is the only known Felon base in Russia, according to the report.
“Russia is highly likely prioritizing avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of Felon over Ukraine,” the intelligence update reads.
Following alleged Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia’s Engels air base in December, the Russian military redeployed its bombers to the country’s far east, according to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
The U.K. Defense Ministry said on Jan. 5 this relocation would complicate Russian aircraft maintenance and “further deplete the limited flying hours available on these aging aircraft.”
According to the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Russia has lost 285 airplanes since the beginning of its full-scale war against Ukraine.