Ukrainian drone strike may have destroyed Russian stealth fighter

Ukraine’s intelligence directorate says one of its drones seriously damaged or even destroyed a Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter at Akhtubinsk airfield in southern Russia , 365 miles from the Russian-Ukrainian border.

If true, this is a major blow to Russian air power. The Russian Air Force has acquired only around twenty examples of the supersonic twin-engine Su-57, the Russian answer to the American Lockheed Martin F-22 stealth fighter.

Su-57s are unproven and have never actually flown in combat. If Ukraine really did destroying an Su-57 in Saturday’s drone raid is not only humiliating for the Russians, it could be a harbinger of more humiliations to come.

The fact that the Ukrainians could strike a stealth fighter nearly 600 kilometers from the front line of Russia’s broader war against Ukraine strongly implies that Russian air defenses are so spread thin because of the intensification of Ukraine’s drone campaign that they cannot protect all of the Kremlin’s most valuable assets.

It should be noted that around the same time, a Ukrainian drone was apparently heading towards the parked Su-57, a different A Ukrainian drone targeted a Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M bomber at the Mozdok air base in southern Russia, 450 miles from the front line.

It is difficult to confirm Ukrainian intelligence’s claim that the plane hit a stealth fighter. Yes, the agency showed what it claimed were before and after satellite images of the strike. “The images show that on June 7 the Su-57 was intact,” the management said, “and on the 8th there were ruptures due to the explosion and characteristic outbreaks of fire caused by fires near”.

However, the images are grainy and could be falsified. Keep in mind that Kiev officials regularly exaggerate the damage Ukrainian forces inflict on the Russian Air Force. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claims to have destroyed more than 350 Russian planes during the 28-month war, but independent analysts have verified only about 80 planes destroyed.

The best reason to believe the Ukrainian agency’s claims might be that the unofficial Russian Fighterbomber channel on Telegram admitted that an Su-57 was damaged by shrapnel.

If the Ukrainians do not lie or exaggerate, and they actually do it, did Compared to an Su-57, the loss would represent only the second stealth warplane a country has lost in combat in the four decades since the US Air Force fielded the very same stealth warplane. First of all stealth plane: the Lockheed Martin F-117.

In 1999, an enterprising Serbian air defense battery anticipated the flight path of an F-117 and shot down the aircraft while it was flying a mission in support of NATO intervention in the Kosovo War . The F-117 pilot was ejected.

If the Ukrainians doesn’t hit an Su-57 this weekend, they might get their chance in the near future. Ukraine is building new long-range attack drones faster than Russia can deploy additional air defense systems to protect the growing list of targets that drones can threaten.

With too few radars and surface-to-air missile batteries to defend every headquarters, factory, oil refinery and air base, the Russians must make difficult choices. The Ukrainian drone attacks are “forcing Russia to reassess its air defense assets,” noted Mick Ryan, a retired Australian army general.

It is possible that this reassessment left the Su-57 unprotected just long enough for an explosive drone to strike. And it’s possible that other stealth fighters, as well as other expensive weapons, will also be on display.

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