Kyiv Strikes Aircraft Factory, Damaging Russian Advanced A-50 Spy Plane

Russian Advanced A-50 Spy Plane Hit in Strike on Aircraft Factory: Kyiv

According to a Ukrainian official, Ukrainian forces have “destroyed or heavily damaged” a prized A-50 spy plane belonging to Russia following an attack on an aviation plant in southern Russia.

Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Saturday that its air defenses intercepted 47 Ukrainian drones over Russian territory overnight, with 41 of them over the southwestern Rostov region.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, stated that Kyiv initiated a “massive UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) attack” on the city of Taganrog, situated east of the captured Ukrainian city of Mariupol and west of Rostov-on-Don.

According to Russian military bloggers, Ukrainian drones targeted a plant in the city responsible for repairing A-50 spy planes, along with a nearby airfield. The attack unfolded in “several waves,” as reported by the influential channel Fighterbomber on Saturday.

Kyiv Strikes Aircraft Factory, Damaging Russian Advanced A-50 Spy Plane
Kyiv Strikes Aircraft Factory, Damaging Russian Advanced A-50 Spy Plane (Credits: Newsweek)

A-50s are airborne warning and control (AWACS) aircraft equipped with powerful radars, each carrying a hefty price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars. Referred to as Mainstay by NATO, these aircraft assist Russia in identifying Ukrainian air defenses and coordinating attacks with other aircraft, such as fourth-generation jets.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a Ukrainian official in the southern region, stated that drones struck the plant’s workshop, causing a fire. However, it remains uncertain whether an A-50 aircraft located nearby was hit.

Bratchuk described the operation as “incredibly successful,” utilizing kamikaze drones within the Russian Federation’s territory.

According to Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko, the Taganrog plant suffered “heavy damage,” with the A-50 aircraft nearby either destroyed or significantly damaged.

Goncharenko emphasized the strategic importance of A-50s, referring to them as the “brains and eyes” of Russia’s air force. He noted the significance of this loss, particularly as Ukraine is set to receive Western-donated F-16 fighter jets later in the year.

Analysts previously suggested to Newsweek in late January that Russia had adopted riskier tactics with its A-50 aircraft in anticipation of Ukrainian pilots utilizing F-16s against Russian jets.

Kyiv claimed to have taken out two of Russia’s A-50 aircraft since the beginning of the year. In late February, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, indicated that Moscow still possessed six A-50s.

The British government suggested earlier this month that Russia had likely grounded its A-50 fleet for operations around Ukraine, though there may be attempts to revive mothballed A-50s, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.

Ukraine’s military recently stated that Moscow is endeavoring to replace its A-50s with reconnaissance drones, although the capabilities of individual drones cannot match those of an AWACS. Samuel Bendett of the U.S. think tank, the Center for Naval Analyses, highlighted the potential for a combination of different drones to partially fill the gaps left by the loss of an A-50.

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.