The Russian Air Force had another bad day in the skies over Ukraine as Kyiv claims it downed four jets, drones, and a cruise missile. A day after Ukrainian air defenses had to confront waves of Iranian-supplies suicide drones, Ukraine says it shot down 4 Russian tactical jet aircrafts on Saturday over the frontlines.
According to recent reports published by the The Drive, The Ukrainian General Staff claimed troops shot down two Russian Su-30SM Flankers, a Su-25SM Frogfoot, a Su-34 Fullback, five drones, and a cruise missile. Footage showed a Su-34 trailing fire from its right engine over the frontline in Kharkiv Oblast, with a later clip showing a fireball and crash site in the area.
Later videos showed an Su-30SM crashing after being hit by a missile, with two parachutes seen descending nearby. Ukraine’s total shoot down claims cannot be independently confirmed at this time, though multiple aircraft do appear to have been shot down.
It isn’t clear what has caused this spike in sorties and shoot-downs, but it is possible that pressure for the Russian Air Force to halt Ukraine’s progress on the battlefield and complicate its forces’ ability to hold recaptured territory has increased.
Forward-deployed medium and long-range Ukrainian air defenses mean even high-end tactical jets cannot operate at altitude, which pushes them down into the MANPADS envelope.
Recently, russian forces sent waves of Iranian drones against targets far from the frontlines on September 23. Losses like Saturday’s and throughout the war in Ukraine are exactly why Russia wanted the Iranian drones in the first place.
Drones can be expendable and cost-effective. Jets, helicopters, and pilots are not. This is especially true for striking into the western areas of Ukraine where Russian airpower cannot operate without extreme risk. Using drones for smaller targets beyond the front lines instead of standoff land attack cruise and ballistic missiles, which are very costly and in dwindling supply, opens up a whole new set of tactics and access to targets for Russia.
Suicide drones can also sniff-out Ukrainian air defense radars and attack them over great ranges, which could impact Ukraine’s ability to deny Russian airpower access beyond the front lines. Even if shot down, they consume Ukraine’s precious surface-to-air missile stockpile.
Kyiv isn’t taking too kindly to Iran supplying the drones, however. Ukraine has not only condemned the drone supplies, but further stripped the Iranian ambassador’s title and reached out to Israel for any intelligence it can provide on Tehran.