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UK: New Russian A-50 radar plane kept distant from Ukraine after previous one downed

After the shootdown of Russia’s AWACS A-50 aircraft over Ukraine earlier, Russia has now deployed a replacement A-50 airborne early warning plane farther from Ukraine over Russian territory, per British intelligence.
Russia's airborne early warning and control aircraft A-50U
Russia’s airborne early warning and control aircraft A-50U (Red 41). File photo: Wikimedia Commons
UK: New Russian A-50 radar plane kept distant from Ukraine after previous one downed

UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence update reports Russia has deployed a new A-50 airborne early warning aircraft over Russian territory instead of nearer Ukraine following likely shootdown of a previous one in the war zone.

The ministry wrote:

  • As previously reported on 14 January 24, a Russian A-50 MAINSTAY almost certainly exploded and subsequently crashed into the Sea of Azov. The A-50 MAINSTAY is a key enabler for Russian operations over Ukraine providing airborne early warning of threats as well as command and control functionality.
  • On 17 January 2024, the Russian Air Force appears to have begun operating another A-50 MAINSTAY, but this time over land within Russian territory near the Krasnodar region, farther eastwards from Ukraine. This activity is highly likely indicative of a reduced risk appetite for the airframes and an attempt to preserve remaining A-50 MAINSTAY at a loss to its overall effectiveness over Ukraine.
  • Despite no official position from Russia on the loss of the MAINSTAY, this activity likely demonstrates a tacit Russian acknowledgement of a successful targeting operation by the Ukrainians against a high value air asset. If the loss of the MAINSTAY was an accident, then such a decision is unlikely to have been required.

For months, Ukrainian forces have been actively targeting not only Russian artillery assets behind the lines to achieve parity in artillery use, but also Russian anti-air equipment and aircraft, shaping the battlefield in preparation for the forthcoming deployment of US-made F-16 fighter jets.

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