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Ukraine conflict: Russia loses ISR aircraft, Kyiv says

A file photo of a Russian A-50 AEW&C aircraft of the type that Ukraine says it shot down along with an Il-22 on 14 January. (United Aircraft Corporation)

Russia lost two intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft on 14 January, the Ukrainian military has said.

Reports that a Russian Beriev A-50 ‘Mainstay' airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and an Ilyushin Il-20 ‘Coot' surveillance aircraft were shot down were seemingly confirmed the following day by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and the Ukrainian Air Force.

“[Pilots] of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed an enemy A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an enemy Il-22 air control post. I am grateful to the air force for a well-planned and conducted operation in the Azov region!” Gen Zaluzhnyi posted from his official Telegram account on 15 January.

“Who did this?” the Ukrainian Air Force asked on the same day on its official X (formerly Twitter) account, with the apparent cryptic admission of responsibility posted alongside the silhouettes of an A-50 and Il-22 and the date the two aircraft were reportedly lost.

Neither Gen Zaluzhnyi nor the Ukrainian Air Force disclosed details as to how the Russian aircraft were brought down. An image posted online on 15 January purports to show the Il-22 at an undisclosed airbase immediately after making an emergency landing. If genuine, the damage inflicted to the rear of the aircraft is consistent with a proximity fuze-equipped air-to-air or surface-to-air missile. While the aircraft did land, the damage sustained to the fuselage indicate there may have been casualties onboard, and that the airframe may well be beyond economical repair.

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