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Ukraine downs Russian drones with Soviet-era training plane in WWI-style dogfight

Amateur aviators from Odesa have recreated a World War I tactic of the second pilot shooting with small arms to down a Russian recon drone
Yak-52 shoots down Russian drone
A Yak-52 training aircraft. Illustrative photo
Ukraine downs Russian drones with Soviet-era training plane in WWI-style dogfight

Ukrainian forces have shot down two Russian reconnaissance drones, a Zala and Orlan-10 drone over the Odesa Oblast. The Orlan was shot down using a Soviet-era Yak-52 propeller-driven light aircraft, according to the official Telegram channel of the Defense Forces of Southern Ukraine.

The incident happened on 27 April. Videos posted by local Telegram channels show an aircraft, identified as a Soviet Yak-52, and a drone with a parachute deployed after its automatic systems were triggered.

Yak-52 Russian drone
The drone shot down above Odesa. Source

Ukrainian military specialist Serhiy “Flash” Beskrestnov posted a video filmed by the Yak-52 pilot, showing the plane circling a Russian Orlan drone that had deployed its landing parachute.

The Yak-52, designed as a trainer, was not intended to carry weapons.Some variants included the addition of two rocket pods capable of launching air-to-ground S-5 rockets, but no weapons for air-to-air combat were ever installed on the aircraft. The Yak-52 was one of the main training aircraft in the USSR and was produced from 1979 to 1998.

Odesa aviators likely used it against the Russian drone, mimicking World War I tactics with a pilot upfront and a gunner with a handheld weapon in the back seat, Militarynyi reported.

According to military journalist Andriy Tsaplienko, the Russian Orlan-10 drone was shot down by the crew of the Civil Air Patrol, a civil society organization that consists mainly of aviation amateurs of various professions and aircraft owners.

The drone was shot down with small arms, Tsaplienko said.

Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko wrote that propeller-driven aircraft are actively being used against Russian drones, and one such plane was nearly shot down by Ukrainian air defenses in recent days after being mistaken for an Iranian Shahed-136 drone.

An-2 to follow in the footsteps of Yak-52?

The success of the Yak-52 has gotten the Ukrainian outlet Defense Express imagining other creative options to deal with Russia’s drone onslaught using old Soviet means.

Particularly, the outlet suggests employing the legendary An-2 “Colt” biplane, which had military variants designed in the 1950s for roles such as hunting balloons. These An-2A variants were to be equipped with a 23mm cannon and a searchlight for night operations.

An-2 to shoot down drones
An An-2 airplane of the Ukrainian Navy’s Naval Aviation, an illustrative photo from the pre-war period

Defense Express also points out that North Vietnam used An-2s as light attack aircraft, arming them with rocket pods, 120mm mines repurposed as bombs, and heavy machine guns. While these were used against ground and naval targets, the outlet proposes that a similar configuration could potentially be adapted for engaging Russian drones in Ukraine’s rear areas.

The An-2 is seen as a promising platform due to its widespread availability in Ukraine’s agricultural aviation sector. However, the outlet stresses that such improvised solutions would only be suitable for use far from the front lines.


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