A Belarusian opposition group, BYPOL, on Thursday released a video of a partisan-operated hobby drone making a brazen landing on top of the radar emitter of a $350 million dollar AWACS jet operated by the Russian air force. 

 

The commercial MAVIC quadcopter approached the A-50U jet at a low altitude and speed, with no visible interference from Russian air defenses at Machulishchy Air Base located south of Minsk, before hovering above the aircraft’s flattened hemispherical radar dome and apparently landing on it, video released by the Belarusian partisan group BYPOL showed. 

 

 

BYPOL on Feb. 26 took credit for using hobby drones modified to carry explosives to hit an A-50U stationed at Maschulishchy. Russian and Belarusian claimed the attack was unsuccessful and that the aircraft later left the airport under its own power. 

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According to independent Belarusian information platforms, the two kamikaze drones’ detonations scorched paintwork, weakened support structure and forced the Russian air force command to ground the plane for 48 hours for repairs to made.  

 

Franak Viacorka, a close adviser to opposition figurehead Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya,described the attack as "the most successful act of sabotage since the beginning of 2022".

 

Initial Kremlin claims that nothing at all had happened were contradicted on Monday when independent satellite overflight images showed the A50U aircraft intact in mid-February, and with parts of its side and radar emitter partially scorched or covered in primer paint, at the end of the month, two days after the attack. 

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The quadcopter strike, now apparently documented with a hi-res video of one of the drone’s approach, are an embarrassment for the Russian military, which prior to invading Ukraine claimed it operated the most effective air defense weaponry and best-trained air defense troops in the world. 

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The Russian air force operates only seven A-50U aircraft. Effectively a flying airport control tower, its primary roles are monitoring air space at long range and controlling operations of fighter and ground strike aircraft. 

 

Kyiv has accused Minsk of allowing Russia to use Belarusian airfields and aircraft based there to support missile and air strikes against Ukraine.  

 

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said his country’s stance is purely defensive, that he wishes no ill on the Ukrainian people, and the heavy presence of Russian military in Belarus are necessary to protect Belarus from attack by Ukraine, NATO, or both.

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