Ambush of Russia Special Air Group Likely to Spawn Major Escalation in War with Ukraine, NATO

ER Editor: First, a few relevant tweets connected to the topic of downed Russian helicopters on Russian territory near Bryansk: 9 pilots lost. And the certainty of Russian retaliation —


Weapons Used to Bring Down Helicopters?

More retaliation



A black and dangerous day for the Russian air operations in Ukraine. A Russian Special Air Group was ambushed, causing the deaths of at least 9 pilots.


Simplicius tells the tale:

Today Russia lost two Mi-8s, and Su-34, and reportedly an Su-35. All nine pilots were killed. This is likely three in the Mi-8, three in the Mi-8MTPR1 (pilot, copilot and EW suite operator), two in Su-34, and one in Su-35.

These four aerial assets comprised what’s called a ‘special air group’ as they operated together as one unit on a coordinated mission objective. One of the Mi-8s was likely in a recovery role, specifically sent as a craft to recover downed pilots as a precaution, the other was an advanced Mi-8MTPR1, which is an electronics / EW platform. The role of the Mi-8MTPR1 is to provide electronic jamming and cover for the Su-34, whose role was to launch airstrikes, likely in the form of the new FAB-500M-62 UMPC ‘planning’ or glide-bombs. The Su-35’s role in this special air group is to provide air cover against potential hostile air threats, i.e. enemy fighter jets.

(ER: extra quotes added)

So, in summary: they fly together, the Mi-8MTPR1 jams enemy air defenses from a distance, the Su-34 launches bombs, the Su-35 patrols to make sure no hostile craft approach, and the rear Mi-8 simply loiters as precaution to exfiltrate any downed pilots swiftly should a shoot down occur.

This incident in fact gave us the first such indepth look into how Russia is launching its long range strikes. It’s more sophisticated than many people thought, and doesn’t boil down to just Su-34s randomly winging bombs on their own, but in fact there is an entire system of cover in place.

So, the big question is, what went wrong? If these Rychag units are supposed to jam AD, then what exactly happened?

In the end, it is an unprecedented strike because it is the downing of an entire air group in Russian territory. And fairly deep in their territory to boot. As one analyst wrote, “next they will just be shooting them down straight in Sheremetyevo airport.”

As of this writing, Russian strategic aviation (bombers) are taking off for what is likely to be retaliatory strikes. We’ll update next time as more information becomes known.

I do not know if the article is behind a pay wall (ER: it doesn’t seem to be), but it provides a very detailed analysis of what may have happened. Bottomline — the Russians are not sure how this aerial ambush was carried out. This is clearly a tactical black eye for the Russians. It does not change the trajectory of Ukraine’s ultimate defeat, but it is likely to lead to a significant escalation in Russian attacks on NATO ISR assets at a minimum. Until now, the Russians largely have avoided attacking U.S./NATO targets. I think that is now at an end.

It is not just the attack on the “Special Air Group.” The Ukrainians also launched two British Storm Shadow cruise missiles on civilian targets in Luhansk (ER: See this by Readovka – browsers will translate). I think the combination of these two events will lead to a change in Russian tactics. Patience in responding to Western-backed terrorist attacks is likely at an end.

The Russian response to the NATO-backed escalation carries a significant risk of widening the war into a full blown war with NATO. To quote Thomas Paul Anderson’s movie, “There Will Be Blood.”




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