In an interview, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman confirmed the utilization of US-supplied Patriot anti-air missiles on 13 May this year to successfully intercept and destroy three Russian Mi-8 helicopters, and two jets- an Su-34 bomber and an Su-35 fighter jet – in the airspace over Russia’s Bryansk Oblast. He also mentioned that during the previous winter, Russia deployed over 1,000 cruise missiles and 1,000 drones targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure. However, he anticipates a significantly higher usage of drones compared to missiles this winter.
Five Russian airframes were downed in five minutes in May
In his new interview with Novynarnia, Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat admitted that back in May, the Patriot SAM system was used to destroy five Russian Air Force assets in five minutes.
Back in May, Ihnat jokingly hinted on national TV that Russia’s own air defenses could have been behind the five crashes.
In July, the Ukrainian Air Force released a video in which one of the Ukrainian operators of the German-supplied Patriot system was giving comments next to one of the Patriot’s vehicles that had victory markings applied in stencil, including three military aircraft and a UAV as downed on 13 May 2023.
On that day, the Russians lost at least one Su-34 and one Su-35, two rare Mi-8MTPR-1 helicopters equipped with electronic warfare units, and another Mi-8.
Commenting on that, Ihnat told Novynarnia:
“It was a brilliant operation led by the Air Force Commander. Thanks to their unconventional and decisive actions, Patriot SAM units destroyed five airframes in five minutes in the Bryansk direction, from where they were then bombarding our northern regions with guided air bombs,” Ihnat said.
The Air Force spokesman also added:
“There was also Odesa. Another Su-35 was shot down over the Black Sea. This happened some time after the events in the Bryansk region. And after that, they stopped flying there for a while because they realized that it was dangerous, they could be shot down,” he said.
The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is a Russian hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile. Asked how many Russian Kinzhals the Ukrainian air defenders have shot down so far, Ihnat said there were 15 of those.
Earlier, Russia believed that no air defense system could destroy its Kinzhal due to its high speed, but during a Russian missile attack on 4 May, the Patriot’s interceptors successfully destroyed an “unstoppable” Kinzhal missile.
Later, on 16 May, Russians launched a barrage of 18 cruise and ballistic missiles on Kyiv, aided by Iranian-made Shahed-series drones, targeting primarily the Ukrainian Patriot installation. Ukrainian Air Force reported that the country’s air defenses shot down all the incoming missiles and drones, including six Kh-47M2 Kinzhal “hypersonic” missiles.
Currently, Ukraine has two Patriot systems supplied by Germany and the US. Recently, Germany pledged to send one more SAM complex of this type.
Asked which cities in Ukraine, besides Kyiv, are protected by the Patriot system, Ihnat said:
“So far, it protects, of course, the capital city.”
Last winter, Russia targeted Ukraine with 1,000+ cruise missiles, 1,000+ explosive drones
Last winter, Russia carried out a months-long campaign of air attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which often caused blackouts in multiple cities and regions across Ukraine, which often lasted for days.
Asked how the Ukrainian air defenders prepared for the winter season that starts in Ukraine amid the public fears of Russia’s possible attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Ihnat started his long response, describing the conditions of the air defenses early and later in the war.
Regarding the previous winter’s campaign, Ihnat noted that the first attacks on energy infrastructure started early in the all-out war. Contrary to the popular belief that the long-lasting winter campaign had started on 10 October 2022, he said that it actually began on 11 September, when 12 Russian cruise missiles Kh-101/Kh-555 targeted the Kharkiv thermal power plant, with nine of those 12 downed by air defenders. On 10 October 2022, Russia fired some 75 missiles, targeting multiple energy facilities across Ukraine, causing blackouts in many cities, including Kyiv.
“Since then, there have been two massive combined attacks with drones and missiles every week: one day they hit hard, the next day they hit half as hard,” Ihnat said.
“All this lasted until 12 March, exactly six months into the heating season,” Ihnat noted.
The Air Force spokesman says during the last campaign against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Russia spent more than 1,000 cruise missiles and more than 1,000 explosive drones:
“The Russians wanted to finish us off with that blackout. They saw that it worked – Ukraine was without electricity, large cities were suffering, and the power industry was in shock. During those six months of the heating season, the enemy used more than 1,000 cruise missiles. That’s just cruise missiles – I’m not counting ballistic missiles. The same number of kamikaze drones – more than 1,000. Air defense shot down about 75% of this hardware,” he said.
Winter expectations: significantly more drone attacks than missiles
Ihnat reminded that Ukraine started receiving its first Western-made anti-air missile systems only in October 2022, when Ukraine received the first NASAMS system, with “two batteries and only three units,” which was “very little.” Later arrived the IRIS-T battery and both IRIS-T and NASAMS were deployed to protect the capital, “because everything was flying to Kyiv at that time.”
Later more equipment arrived, however, “it’s still not enough – the consumption of missiles is very high. Plus the depletion of air defense, equipment is breaking down,” Ihnat argued, adding:
“Our only chance is to replace Soviet-era equipment with modern one. But there are not so many air defense systems in the world, because no one thought about air defense globally. Everyone relied on airplanes. And in order to defend against ballistic missiles, we need to have ground-based systems with modern missiles, like the Patriot,” Ihnat said.
Ihnat believes that Russia will not launch very massive air barrages encompassing hundreds of drones and missiles, but will carry out more intense explosive drone attacks:
Ihant said that his opinion is based on the statistics. He said, according to his data, Russia used about a hundred missiles during a summer month. According to the Main Directorate ofIntelligence’s data, Russia also produces up to a hundred missiles per month. But in the last two months, “they didn’t use them [in hundreds], they used about a few dozen. Simple math.”
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- Russia tried to destroy US-made Patriot SAM in Ukraine with Kinzhal missile – CNN citing US officials
- Historical first: Ukraine confirms shooting down Kinzhal hypersonic missile with Patriot SAM
- Germany delivered its SAM Patriot to Ukraine