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UK intelligence outlines consequences of eliminating second Russian A-50 aircraft

UK intelligence outlines consequences of eliminating second Russian A-50 aircraft Photo: Russia will move A-50 aircraft away from the front line (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

After the elimination of the second Russian long-range radar detection and control aircraft, the A-50, Moscow has only seven of these aircraft left. Russia can move these aircraft away from the front line, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

On February 23, 2024, a Russian A-50U aircraft was shot down (almost certainly by a surface-to-air missile) while flying south of the Sea of Azov over Russian territory in the Krasnodar Territory.

"There is a remote chance that the Russians inadvertently shot down their own aircraft while attempting to protect it," the Ministry says.

This is the second A-50 downed in two months. According to UK intelligence, Russia began flying A-50s over the Sea of Azov only in November 2023. And on January 14, 2024, Ukraine successfully struck an A-50 in the area. This made Russian politicians think about safer areas for the aircraft to operate.

"This latest Ukrainian success has demonstrated a continued Russian inability to protect high value air assets. It brings into question the efficacy of Russian air planners," the statement says.

At the same time, the Russian Air Force will be able to compensate for the loss of the A-50, as there are seven combat aircraft left. Nevertheless, the loss of two experienced specialized crews in two months is likely to lead to further strain and combat fatigue for the remaining forces if they are to maintain sustained operations.

"It is likely that the Russian air force will again consider different operating locations, bur Ukraine is demonstrating an ability to adapt quickly and continues to pose a threat," the UK Ministry of Defense says.

A-50 elimination

On February 23, a Russian A-50 aircraft was shot down over the Sea of Azov. Intelligence sources reported that the A-50U is a new modernized version of the aircraft, and its cost is about $350 million.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for his part, hinted that the A-50 was shot down by Ukrainian weapons.

The aircraft was used for long-range radar detection, control, and guidance for strikes on Ukraine with missiles from strategic aviation.

Read more about the uniqueness of the A-50 in RBC-Ukraine's report.