TechRussian drone strikes devastate Ukrainian airbases, expose weaknesses

Russian drone strikes devastate Ukrainian airbases, expose weaknesses

Ukrainian MiG-29 attacked by loitering munition - illustrative photo
Ukrainian MiG-29 attacked by loitering munition - illustrative photo
Images source: © Licensor
Łukasz Michalik

4 July 2024 20:48

The past few days have been particularly challenging for Ukrainian aviation. The Russians succeeded in attacking an airport where Ukrainian Su-27s were based, destroying a Mi-24 helicopter. Another assault on the Dolgincevo airbase in Kryvyi Rih led to additional losses, with at least one aircraft destroyed.

The attack pattern remains consistent in each instance. It is executed by a Russian drone that, undetected and unopposed, facilitates the detection and identification of targets while flying near the airbase.

The base is subsequently attacked by Iskander missiles, highlighting the shorter Russian "kill chain" compared to the early months of the conflict – the process involving detecting, identifying, and destroying targets. Although still not at NATO standards, the Russians have reduced the time sufficiently to cause substantial losses to the Ukrainians.

The attack on Dolgincevo was similar. Despite a mock Su-25 being left unprotected on the airport apron, the Russian drone was able to discern the decoy and identify the Ukrainian aircraft.

Attack coordinated by drones

Defence 24 reports that a MiG-29 undergoing maintenance and a Su-25 assault aircraft were detected. Despite being under a canopy, both aircraft were identified and the Iskander missile attack resulted in the destruction of at least one aircraft, with official Russian sources mentioning the loss of one MiG-29.

Konrad Muzyka, director of Rochan Consulting, explained the Russian tactics to AFP. He stated that the attacks employ pairs of drones, with one observing the targets and the other acting as a data relay, which enables communication across long distances.

The considerable freedom of movement for Russian drones is attributed to the limited number of anti-aircraft systems available to Ukraine.

The increased frequency of Russian attacks on airbases could also stem from the belief that the first F-16 aircraft have already arrived in Ukraine. The destruction of any such aircraft would be a significant propaganda victory for Russia.

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