Losses and Aviation Safety

Ukrainian Air Force says it has shot down another Russian A-50 AEW&C aircraft

Ukraine Air Force shot down another Russian A-50 AEW&C aircraft

On the evening of Feb. 23, 2024 Ukrainian Air Force (PSU) downed a Russian Air-Space Force (RuASF or VKS) Beriev A-50 (NATO reporting name ‘Mainstay’) airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft over the Azov Sea, Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said on Telegram.

As reported by The Kyiv Independent, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency confirmed the aircraft had been downed as a result of a joint operation with the Air Force. The downing is “another serious blow” to Russia’s military capabilities, the agency said.

Oleshchuk thanked “all those who ensured the result” on Telegram at around at 8 p.m. local time (UTC+2).

Mainstay downed north of Kanevskoy District, home to a Russian military airfield

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported minutes later that “an unidentified aircraft crashed in the Kanevskoy District in Krasnodar Krai.”

Screenshot from a video shared on Telegram by Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk, purportedly showing the A-50 aircraft falling from the air. (Mykola Oleshchuk / Telegram)

A second report from RIA Novosti said that two aircraft had crashed in the area, causing a large fire to break out at the crash site. A third update at around 9 p.m. UTC+2 time claimed that there had in fact only been one aircraft involved in the crash.

Kanevskoy District is situated on the coast of the Azov Sea, 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the front line in Ukraine.

HUR later said that the aircraft was downed near the city of Yeysk, which is located around 50 kilometers (32 miles) north of Kanevskoy District and is home to a Russian military airfield.

Ukraine reportedly downed a Su-34 fighter jet 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.

First A-50 shot down on Jan. 14

The Ukrainian Air Force had previously downed a Russian A-50 over the Azov Sea on Jan. 14. An Ilyushin Il-22 (Coot-B) Airborne Command Post (variant of the Soviet Cold War-era Il-18 airliner series) was also reportedly damaged beyond repair in the same operation.

Screenshot from a video shared on Telegram by Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk, purportedly showing the A-50 aircraft falling from the air. (Mykola Oleshchuk / Telegram)

As already reported (CLICK HERE to read the whole article) Ukrainians may have used a suitable SAM-system to target the two aircraft from long range. Perhaps this was one of PSU’s S-300 SAM-systems. Perhaps one of PSU’s PAC-2/3 SAM-systems: so far, this is unclear. It is also possible that Ukrainians have deployed a launcher and a radar (plus power-supply equipment) from one of their three PAC-2/3 SAM-systems in ‘Assault Mode’, and in combination with one of their S-300 radars…

The Ukrainian Air Force could have used the same strategy for today shooting down.

The A-50 Mainstay

Much like the USAF Boeing E-3 Sentry, the A-50 serves as an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) acting as a flying command and control centre for guiding combat aircraft over the battlefield. As told above the RuASF is currently thought to have about 6 SDRLO (Long Range Detection System) aircraft in service.

Designed to replace the Tu-126 (NATO reporting name: Moss), the A-50 is an early-warning derivative of the Ilyushin Il-76 transport and first flew in 1978. The airframe bristles with a vast array of antennas, the most notable of which is the saucer like radome mounted on pylons above the fuselage. This massive radar antenna spans almost 30 feet across and has a detection range of 250 miles. It can track up to 50 – 60 separate targets and guide 10 – 12 fighter aircraft simultaneously. The fuselage is packed with communication and control systems with consoles for 10 mission specialists.

Photo credit: Dmitry Terekhov from Odintsovo, Russian Federation via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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