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.
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