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Operation Dragonfly: Ukraine claims destruction of Russia’s nine helicopters at occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk airfields

Overnight missile strikes on two Russian-controlled airfields in occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk destroyed nine Russian helicopters, the Ukrainian military says.
Russian helicopter Mi-24P
A Russian attack helicopter Mi-24P. Credit: russianplanes.net.
Operation Dragonfly: Ukraine claims destruction of Russia’s nine helicopters at occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk airfields

Ukraine’s Defence Force carried out successful overnight strikes on Russian helicopter airfields near the occupied cities of Luhansk and Berdiansk, Ukraine’s military said on 17 October. Later update by the Ukrainian special operations forces suggests the destruction of nine Russian helicopters.

“Overnight into 17 October, the Armed Forces of Ukraine conducted successful strikes on helicopters and airfield equipment of the Russian occupation troops near temporarily occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk,” reads a message by the Ukrainian Army’s department of strategic communications.

Luhansk is Ukraine’s easternmost regional capital, occupied by Russia since 2014. Berdiansk is a southern port city in Zaporizhzhia Oblast that Russian forces occupied at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

In its daily bulletin, the Ukrainian Army’s General Staff says,

“Units of [the Ukrainian] missile troops hit two helicopters at landing sites, an ammunition depot, and an enemy artillery unit.”

However, the Russian military-linked sources indirectly suggest that the damage to the Russian air assets may be much more extensive.

“It’s war, there’s nothing more to add (some still didn’t understand that). Actually, these attacks on airfields would obviously happen sooner or later,” a Russian air force related Telegram channel Helicopterpilot wrote.
The Independent says late last month’s satellite images from the Berdiansk airfield “showed more than 20 Russian helicopters,” while further imagery showed the construction of new revetments and shelters for vehicles and equipment at the site.

A Ukrainian military-related Telegram channel Nikolaevsky Vanyok says the Berdiansk airfield hosted a large helicopter fleet of Russian helicopters, including KA-52s and MI-8s, as well as several MI-28s and MI-24s. According to him, Russia used it as the main base to provide close air support for its frontline units.

and there were up to 30 of these things.

Another Russian Airspace Force-linked Telegram channel, Fighterbomber, calls this attack a possibly most serious strike during Russia’s full-scale invasion:

“It’s not a good morning. The Khokhls (a Russian ethnic slur for Ukrainians, – Ed.) struck our airfield where the Army Aviation was based with ATACMS missiles at night. It was one of the most serious strikes in the entire time of the SVO (“Special Military Operation” – a Russian euphemism for its invasion of Ukraine, – Ed). If not the most serious. There are casualties in both men and equipment,” he wrote.

The speculation that Ukraine has used the US-provided ATACMS missiles has not been confirmed yet, as Ukraine could have used the British-donated Storm Shadow missiles, the Soviet-designed S-200 anti-air missiles modified for ground attacks, or even the domestic Neptune anti-ship missiles.

Meanwhile, the Russian occupation administration head in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Vladimir Rogov, claimed that the strikes on the Berdiansk airfield were unsuccessfulЖ

“It’s loud in Berdiansk! Starting at about 02:33 the residents of the city heard a series of loud explosions. According to preliminary data, our air defenses successfully worked on enemy missiles that the [Ukrainian Armed Forces] militants fired at the peaceful city. The missiles was (the original wording, – Ed.) shot down on the outskirts of the city,” Rogov wrote at 03:11 a.m. on Telegram.

One of the Ukrainian war monitoring accounts shared a video allegedly showing the Berdiansk military airfield featuring multiple secondary explosions:

In its later update, the Ukrainian Army’s Special Operations Force (SSO) said it acquired and passed the information on “the presence of a significant amount of aviation assets and special equipment and ammunition” at Berdiansk and Luhansk airfields to other units of the Defense Forces, which carried out strikes overnight into 17 October.

The SSO claims that the attack destroyed the following Russian assets, according to the latest data:

  • 9 helicopters of various modifications;
  • the airfield-based special equipment;
  • an air defense system’s launcher;
  • an ammunition warehouse;
  • airfield runways were damaged.

“The ammunition depot in Berdiansk was detonating until 4 a.m. Detonations in Luhansk lasted until 11 a.m.,” the SSO wrote.

According to the SSO, the Russian losses in manpower amounted to dozens of dead and wounded.

“Bodies are still being removed from the rubble,” the Special Operations Force reported at 13:20.

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