Ukraine Situation Report: Multiple Russian Aircraft Shot Down In A Day
The Russian Air Force had another bad day in the skies over Ukraine as Kyiv claims it downed four jets, drones, and a cruise missile.
A day after air defenses had to confront waves of Iranian-supplies suicide drones, Ukraine says it shot down 4 Russian tactical jet aircraft Saturday over the frontlines.
The Ukrainian General Staff claimed troops shot down two Russian Su-30SM Flankers, a Su-25SM Frogfoot, a Su-34 Fullback, five drones, and a cruise missile. Footage showed a Su-34 trailing fire from its right engine over the frontline in Kharkiv Oblast, with a later clip showing a fireball and crash site in the area.
Later videos showed an Su-30SM crashing after being hit by a missile, with two parachutes seen descending nearby. Ukraine's total shootdown claims cannot be independently confirmed at this time, though multiple aircraft do appear to have been shot down.
It isn't clear what has caused this spike in sorties and shoot-downs, but it is possible that pressure for the Russian Air Force to halt Ukraine's progress on the battlefield and complicate its forces' ability to hold recaptured territory has increased. Forward-deployed medium and long-range Ukrainian air defenses mean even high-end tactical jets cannot operate at altitude, which pushes them down into the MANPADS envelope. We see the results of that reality today.
Drones are a growing concern. Russian forces sent waves of Iranian drones against targets far from the frontlines on September 23. Losses like Saturday’s and throughout the war in Ukraine are exactly why Russia wanted the Iranian drones in the first place.
Drones can be expendable and cost-effective. Jets, helicopters, and pilots are not. This is especially true for striking into the western areas of Ukraine where Russian airpower cannot operate without extreme risk. Using drones for smaller targets beyond the front lines instead of standoff land attack cruise and ballistic missiles, which are very costly and in dwindling supply, opens up a whole new set of tactics and access to targets for Russia. Suicide drones can also sniff-out Ukrainian air defense radars and attack them over great ranges, which could impact Ukraine's ability to deny Russian airpower access beyond the front lines. Even if shot down, they consume Ukraine's precious surface-to-air missile stockpile. We wrote about Iran's drones' appearance in Ukraine and recent use, which you can read about here.
Kyiv isn’t taking too kindly to Iran supplying the drones, however. Ukraine has not only condemned the drone supplies, but further stripped the Iranian ambassador’s title and reached out to Israel for any intelligence it can provide on Tehran.
Before heading into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Mobilization’s impact continued to be seen in Russia on Saturday, with woes ranging from disturbing to comical. Recently mobilized conscripts shared videos of the gear Moscow has for its reservists. Because nothing says desperate measures quite like AKs rusted from butt to barrel.
When reservists bring their own equipment, however, the military is reportedly confiscating it for use elsewhere. It’s unclear how broadly this applies and whether it is strictly medical supplies or things like uniforms, tools, or navigation equipment.
The general trend of mobilized men stumbling dead drunk continues. And while we’re not entirely sure, there’s probably some vodka-flavored overlap with the guy shown below doing Lada bodywork with his forehead.
Mobilization clearly doesn't translate to military discipline, either. Case in point is the video below. The conscripts tell the uniformed Russian soldiers exactly what they can do with their drill formation.
In the Siberian city of Omsk, it appears things seriously escalated long before anyone thought to order rank and file. Mobilized conscripts got into a brawl with local police, who the conscripts say ought to come along with them to the Ukrainian trenches.
Unrest over mobilization has spread across Russia, as evidenced in videos and an assessment from the Institute for the Study of War.
Apart from protests and Molotov cocktail attacks on government and military recruitment centers, the unrest remains vividly clear on Russia’s borders. Google traffic data still shows congestion on roads leading into Kazakhstan, Finland, and Georgia.
The Russian exodus into Georgia is particularly ironic considering the last time this many Russians headed through the Caucasus, the Russians invaded.
Elsewhere, European Union Council President called on the alliance’s members to welcome those Russians unwilling to support their country’s war in Ukraine in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
Michel told Politico the EU should be willing to give safe harbor “to those who don’t want to be instrumentalized by the Kremlin.” Michel additionally called for Russia’s suspension from the U.N. Security Council.
Despite mobilization’s chaotic effects inside Russia, accounts from the frontline suggest combat units are critically undermanned. A post on Telegram reports there are brigades, nominally several thousand troops, that are down to only 60 infantrymen.
Combat brigades bleeding down to two platoons of infantrymen is an abominable attrition rate. Moscow’s desperate measures may be necessary at this point, ineffective as they are, if they want to continue the war.
One thing’s for sure, Ukraine doesn’t care what caliber of Russians it has to fight.
As far as the war itself, the latest update from the British Ministry of Defense reported on Russian strikes against dams on the Siverskyy Donets River trying to flood crossings downstream. However, any subsequent flooding is “unlikely to have caused significant disruption to Ukrainian operations.”
Amid Ukraine’s continued advance, the New York Times reported Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has put himself in the middle of his commander’s operations. Specifically, Putin has reportedly refused requests to retreat from Kherson.
History hasn’t exactly been kind to autocrats with operational control, as the heavily memed Führerbunker scene from 2004’s “Downfall” comes to mind. Putin did make a significant change, however, removing Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics Gen. Dmitry Bulgakov from his post.
Bulgakov’s replacement is reportedly Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the former head of the National Defense Management Center. Mizintsev’s reputation precedes himself, having earned the moniker “Butcher of Mariupol” for his role in Russia’s assault on the port city this spring.
New pictures of Antonivksky Bridge show the damage after months of strikes by Ukrainian HIMARS. If Putin relents to his generals’ reported wishes, they’ll need another way over the Dnieper.
American troops have reportedly set up “battlefield hotlines” for Ukrainian troops to troubleshoot equipment like HIMARS in the field, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The less than buttoned-up operational security of the Russian Army continues to pay off for Ukraine:
Yet another piece of sensitive Russian gear has fallen into the hands of Ukraine and likely western intelligence services:
Finally, Ukraine's military has not lost its sense of humor through all this, putting out the tweet below of its snipers ghillie'd-up with a caption referring once again to the Lord Of The Rings good-versus evil struggle they see themselves in:
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