According to a British Defense Ministry intelligence update, Russia’s use of retired military personnel who are now private contractors suggests Russia does not have enough trained service members, especially pilots, to continue its war in Ukraine.
On June 17th, Ukrainian forces reportedly shot down a Russian Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft and captured the pilot, Major Andrei Fedorchukov. The pilot confessed to being a former Russian air force major who is employed by Wagner, a private military contractor, to fly mission in Ukraine. Fedorchukov had reportedly flown several missions in Ukraine before being shot down.
According to the British MoD intelligence update, “the use of retired personnel, now working as Wagner contractors, to conduct close air support missions indicates that the Russian air force likely is struggling to support the invasion of Ukraine with sufficient aircrew. This is likely due to a combination of Russia’s insufficient numbers of suitably trained personnel and its combat losses.
Fedorchukov was reportedly using commercial GPS devices instead of military-grade gear. According to the British MoD, “this likely indicates that Wagner aircraft are older models of the Su-25 and that the Russian air force is not providing Wagner with up-to-date avionics equipment.”
Last month, Retired Major General of the Russian Air Force, Kanamat Botashev, was killed in the skies over Ukraine when his Sukhoi Su-25 was shot down by a Stinger MANPADS on May 22nd in the Luhansk region.