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UK intel: Russia likely grounds A-50 fleet following loss of second aircraft in Ukraine

To bridge the gap caused by the A-50 losses, Russia is likely exploring alternatives, including repurposing aircraft and reactivating mothballed A-50s.
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 intel: Russia likely grounds A-50 fleet following loss of second aircraft in Ukraine

A week after the loss of a second A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, Russia has likely grounded the fleet from flying in support of Ukraine operations, according to UK intelligence.

The grounding is expected to continue while internal investigations are conducted to address the failure to protect another high-value enabler and to mitigate the threat posed by Ukrainian air defense.

UK intel reported that the loss of this capability, which provides daily command and control to Russian air operations, will most likely significantly degrade the situational awareness provided to aircrews. This capability gap is particularly critical over the contested airspace of eastern and southern Ukraine, where effective air support is essential for ground forces.

To bridge this gap, Russia is likely exploring options, including repurposing aircraft and accepting greater risk. However, the removal of A-50s supporting operations has almost certainly exacerbated this prolonged issue. Airframe and crew fatigue are almost certain to intensify once the A-50 returns to operations, with the fleet increasingly stretched.

There is a realistic possibility that Russia may attempt to bring previously mothballed A-50 airframes back into service to alleviate the situation, as per UK intel.

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