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UK intel: Air defense constraints impair tactical air operations for Russia and Ukraine

UK intelligence underscores Russia’s Su-24M loss to a Ukrainian SAM in the Black Sea, emphasizing air defense constraints on tactical air operations.
Russia’s Sukhoy Su-24. Illustrative image from open sources

In its December 8 intelligence update, the UK Defense Ministry highlights the Russian loss of the Su-24M fighter bomber to a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile over the north-western Black Sea, noting that air defenses continue to severely limit the effectiveness of tactical air operations for both sides. 

The ministry tweeted:

  • On 5 December 2023, a Russian Naval Aviation Su-24M FENCER D fighter bomber was highly likely shot down by a Ukrainian surface-to-air Missile (SAM) over the north-western Black Sea in the vicinity of Ukraine’s Zmiinyi (Snake) Island. 
  • Since summer 2023, Russia has continued to conduct high-risk, crewed strike missions against the island. This is likely mainly for messaging reasons because the island has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and Russia wants to demonstrate it can project force across the Black Sea.
  • The two-man crew was likely lost: the location and operational conditions would make a successful Russian search and rescue mission extremely challenging. Both sides still suffer regular combat aircraft losses. Overall, air defences continue to severely limit the effectiveness of tactical air operations. 

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