Ukraine has used a Yak-52 propeller-driven trainer aircraft to down a Russian ZALA drone over the Mykolaiv region.

A Ukrainian Telegram channel shared the footage allegedly taken from the Russian drone of the Yak-52 trainer, though it’s unclear how it obtained the footage.

The channel also shared the geographical coordinates of the alleged interception, which is approximately 56km southwest of Mykolaiv city. However, it did not specify the model of the Russian drone, since ZALA is the manufacturer of multiple drones used in Ukraine. 

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In the footage, two pilots were clearly visible onboard the camouflage-painted Yak-52, both with the canopies opened. Since the Yak-52 has no onboard weapons, it’s assumed that the weapons were fired by the co-pilot in the instructor seat, as reported by military outlet Militarnyi.

In April, Kyiv Post reported how another Ukrainian Yak-52 trainer aircraft chased down a Russian Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone over the Odesa region. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) estimated that each Orlan-10 drone costs between $87,000 and $120,000.

The Yak-52 is a Soviet-designed two-seat trainer aircraft produced between 1978 and 1998, with later variants manufactured in Romania under license. The plane was used to train civilian sports pilots and military pilots.

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The plane, driven by a nine-cylinder radial engine powering its propeller, is known for its agility and was used in aerobatic flights with a stress rating of +7 and -5 Gs.

Its agility in low speed and low cost of operation – as opposed to the MiG-29 and Su-27 jets in service with the Ukrainian Air Force – have made it an ideal candidate for drone interception, though the process does resemble early WWI dogfights when pilots had to fire weapons from their cockpits before synchronization gear was introduced to planes.

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While utilizing trainer aircraft to intercept Russian drones is not a general tactic at present, the latest incident meant they might not be isolated and thus indicated a potential shift in Ukrainian air defense tactics. 

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