Ukraine's Intel Chief: downing of Russian A-50 early warning aircraft was result of a 2 weeks operation

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, has revealed details of an operation that targeted a Russian A-50U early warning and control aircraft. Although General Budanov did not specify the weapon used, experts from Defence Express have proposed some hypotheses on the matter.

Budanov told journalists on the sidelines of“Ukraine, Year 2024” conference that a two-week meticulous preparation preceded the special operation to destroy the Russian early warning plane. The Defense Express analysts stress this underlines not only the uniqueness of the event but also the high level of organization and expertise of those involved in executing such an operation.

Regarding the means of destruction, the analysts noted that the aircraft was downed over Krasnodar Krai, some 170 km away from the frontline. Even assuming Ukrainian Patriot missile systems were used, firing a GEM-T missile with a claimed range of up to 160 km would not be sufficient to strike the Russian A-50U. Moreover, the deployment of even a "roving" missile system at the Line of Actual Control is implausible, as air defense systems are positioned at least beyond the range of enemy artillery.

Meanwhile, there is unconfirmed information suggesting that an S-200 missile system was responsible for bringing down the A-50U. The experts remind, however, that this system would require significant adjustments and modernization due to its inherent obsolescence.

In Russia, officials claim that the early warning aircraft was hit by friendly fire. The supposed scenario would be that Russian forces tried intercepting a launched S-200 missile with an S-400 system interceptor, but the missile erroneously struck their own aircraft.

Budanov further mentioned the remaining inventory of such aircraft in the Russian Air and Space Forces. He stated that, on paper, there were nine reconnaissance planes—three A-50 and six A-50U models. One of these was shot down over the Azov Sea on January 14, another was destroyed on February 23, and a third was damaged in Belarus towards the end of February 2023.

Subsequently, Budanov added that losing another A-50 would prevent Russia from maintaining 24/7 air operations.

On February 25, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat claimed that the destruction of another Russian A-50 would not affect Russian strikes on Ukraine. However, the capabilities of Russian aviation are reduced with the loss of an A-50.

  War in Ukraine, Budanov, A-50