Uncovering Russia's diverse fleet of sophisticated tactical air defence systems

David Axe analyses the ground-based air defence platforms employed by the Russian military to protect land forces from air attacks and he highlights differences between the systems used by Russia and the NATO alliance.

In early May 2014, separatist rebels and their Russian backers in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine shot down three Ukrainian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. The following month, these separatists and Russians downed a Mi-8 Hip tactical transport helicopter, an An-30 Clank reconnaissance aircraft, an An-26 Curl twin-turboprop transport and an Il-76MD Candid strategic airlifter, along with three Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft.

Russian Su-34 Fullback [Russian MOD]
A Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback belonging to the Russian Aerospace Forces flies over Russia’s Central Military District during an air-to-air refuelling training sortie in December 2020. The Russian Su-34 fleet would likely lead the charge against the Ukrainian air defence system given its ‘Wild Weasel’ mission set and the fact that it can be equipped with Kh-25MP (AS-12 Kegler), Kh-58 (AS-11 Kilter) and Kh-31P/PD (AS-17 Krypton) anti-radiation missiles, which are designed for use against enemy radars and jammers. Russian MOD

More than 60 Ukrainians died in these shootdowns, spurring Kiev to pull back its aircraft from the region. Eight years later – as a powerful Russian army was massing on the border between Russia and Ukraine (thousands of tanks and other armoured vehicles, plus equipment for hundreds of thousands of troops) – Ukrainian aircraft still hadn’t returned to the battlefield in Donbas.


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