Russia has lost approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its remining fleet is facing significant challenges in the face of sanctions and a war that has lasted far longer than the Kremlin planned for, a new report says.

 

In its latest daily assessment, the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) says the “viability” of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ (VKS) long-term tactical air power is likely to degrade as the war continues.

 

It said: “The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have lost approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft in combat since February 2022. It has also been flying some of its combat aircraft types far more intensively than in peace time.

 

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“All aircraft have a projected lifespan, in flying hours. It is highly likely that with this extra wartime use, Russia is eating into many of its airframes’ lifespans far more quickly than the VKS planned for.

 

“The need for extra maintenance is complicated by a shortage of spare parts because of increasing demand and international sanctions.”

 

It adds that given the Kremlin believed the “special military operation” would last only a matter of weeks, “wear and tear of airframes is likely to have reduced the viability of the VKS’s long-term tactical air power.”

 

But the MoD does warn of the threat the VKS still poses, adding: “The VKS maintains the ability to surge sortie rates over occupied Ukraine.”

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The threat from drones, loitering munitions and precision-guided weapons applies as much to artillery systems as it does to tanks and other armored vehicles.

 

Previously, the MoD has frequently noted the limited activity of Russian aviation due to the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defenses.

 

Russian warplanes primarily operate over territories controlled by Russia, limiting their effectiveness in their primary strike role.

 

In early June, the Russian Federation significantly increased the number of combat sorties by tactical aviation to deter the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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Nevertheless, the daily rate of combat sorties by the VKS remains substantially lower than the peak of 300 daily sorties at the start of the war.

 

The MoD does not provide a detailed breakdown of the types of aircraft Russia has lost, but according to the independent monitoring site Oryx which only counts losses verifiable by open-source visual data, Moscow’s air forces have lost:

  • 80 combat aircraft including 30 Su-25 close air support aircraft, 21 Su-34 strike aircraft, and 11 Su-30SM multirole aircraft.
  • Three strategic bombers including two Tu-22M3s and one Tu-95MS.
  • Two Command and Control Aircraft, both Il-22(M) airborne command posts
  • Six transport aircraft, five Il-76s and one An-26 

 

Between February 24, 2022, when Moscow's troops entered Ukraine, and August 17, 2023, approximately 21.7 percent, or one in five, of Russia's confirmed losses of manned aircraft, including fighter jets, helicopters, and transport planes, were attributed to Russian system malfunctions, pilot errors, friendly fire, or other accidents unrelated to direct combat with Ukraine.

 

These significant aircraft losses during training or non-combat missions can be attributed to various factors, including oversights in Russia's aircraft maintenance practices, the need for more rigorous pilot training, and improved safety procedures.

 

One of the Il-22(M) airborne command posts was shot down by Wagner forces during the failed rebellion attempt in June.

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In recent weeks, Ukraine has had notable successes targeting Russian planes with drones.

 

Speaking exclusively to Kyiv Post, a source in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), said a wave of drones hit “four Su-30 aircraft and one MiG-29” at the facility, as well as damaging two Pantsir missile launchers and the radars of an S-300 air defense system in an attack last month.

 

According to Oryx, Ukraine has lost 67 combat aircraft, two jet trainers and four transport aircraft.

 

Aside from fixed-wing aircraft, Russia has also lost a considerable number of helicopters.

 

Despite being billed by the Kremlin as the world’s best helicopter gunship, Russia has lost at least 44 Ka-52 Alligators.

 

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