Russian A-50 Radar Jet Intact After Claimed Drone Attack In Belarus
Satellite imagery shows no outright signs of damage to a Russian A-50 radar jet in Belarus after a supposed attack by partisan operatives.
After a claimed attack by a Belarusian partisan group on Sunday using drones, we have obtained satellite imagery of Machulishchy Air Base, located south of Minsk from Planet Labs. The image, taken this morning on February 28, 2023, shows the A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control aircraft that was supposedly attacked still largely intact on the flightline at the base.
You can read our full initial report on this claimed incident here.
The image outright confirms that the aircraft was not totally destroyed. There is some interesting shading on its radome and the right wing area that might indicate some kind of damage, although this is just a possibility at this time. It could just as easily be due to snow on the airframe. We also do not see any significant amount of vehicles or other activity around the aircraft, as one might expect to see had it suffered a recent attack.
The imagery is still being processed and we hope to get a full-color version soon for a more complete analysis of the aircraft and the airfield around it. At the very least, it shows that the aircraft is generally intact.
Author's note: See update with new color imagery and analysis at the bottom of this post.
BYPOL, an organization of Belarusian military dissidents opposed to the current Lukashenko government, claimed on their Telegram channel on Sunday that they struck the A-50, damaging it in two critical places — its radome and its nose area.
As we wrote on Sunday in our initial report, even causing damage to one of Russia's few and highly prized A-50s would be a significant blow to the Russian Air Force. The U.K. Ministry Of Defense's regular intelligence update on the war in Ukraine seems to agree wholly with that assessment.
UPDATE: 11AM EST—
We now have higher resolution color imagery of the A-50 in question. There appears to be no outright damage with the shadowed areas seen in the first image seemingly being due to the snow covering parts of the aircraft's wings and radome. There are also a number of large vehicles nearby the aircraft in this image.
Another image from Maxar also confirms this analysis.
This does not mean definitively that the aircraft was not damaged in some kind of an attack, but if that did occur, the damage is too small to see in the commercial satellite imagery currently available, which also puts into question its overall severity.
There appears to be no other outright visible damage to the airfield or its occupants:
We will continue to update this post as more information comes available.
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