In one of the most significant single-day losses for the Russian Air Force in recent times, Ukraine shot down three Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers. Kyiv has claimed that the US-supplied Patriot surface-to-air missiles made the kill, and six Russian aviators were killed.
The Russians have been shoring up the use of air power in the southern end of the country. The Ukrainian Air Force’s official social media accounts announced the shooting down of three Su-34Ms.
“Today at noon in the southern sector — minus three Russian Su-34 fighter bombers!” Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app. The missiles used for it are still not confirmed. But Ukraine has recently received a fresh lot of US-made Patriot missiles from German stock.
The Fullbacks were said to have been downed as they flew “in the south direction,” and speculations are rife that Patriots were used to shoot the fighter bombers. President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the servicemen who had hit the planes, saying the incident had occurred in the war-torn Kherson Region.
The Kremlin is yet to acknowledge the losses, but Russian bloggers like Fighterbomber channel on Telegram have reported an unspecified number of ‘combat losses’. Close to the Russian Air Force, the channel claimed that search and rescue efforts were underway.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat gave a TV statement after the incident: “These are one of the newest planes in service with the Russian army,” and are used to carry out aerial bomb and missile strikes. According to Ihnat, a Su-34 has not been included in the statistics of Russian losses for a long time, and each one costs “at least 50 million dollars.”
The Ukrainian strike was preceded by the night attack by Russia using ‘Shaheds.’ Russian troops, using 28 “Shaheds,” UAVs launched an attack during the night of December 21–22, targeting the districts of Kursk, Primorsko-Akhtarsk in Russia, and Chauda in seized Crimea. While two inhabitants of Kyiv were reportedly hurt by the drone strike on a residential building, Ukraine announced on Friday that its air defenses had shot down 24 of the 28 Iranian-made drones that Russia had launched overnight.
During the pre-dawn hours of December 22, a message from the Russians on a piece of a downed Russian “Shahed” included the phrase: “Die, bitches.”
In response, Ukrainian Air Force Commander Oleschuk declared, “Great idea! Here’s our answer! Today, at noon, in the Southern sector – minus three Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers!” with a sarcastic addition of “Eternal flight, ‘brothers’!”
The Missile Ambush
The Ukrainian air force carefully laid out a trap for the Sukhoi Su-34 glide-bombers, National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Secretary Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian radio.
Earlier this month, there were reports about the Ukrainian Air Force bringing down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 M Fencer swing-wing bomber over the Black Sea. This gave rise to speculations that Odesa port, hitherto defended by the Soviet-vintage S-300 missiles with a range of 50 km, was now defended by at least one battery of the Patriot Air Defense System.
On Nov. 25, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky dropped in at the International Summit on Food Security in Kyiv and announced that Ukraine was preparing to deploy “very powerful air defenses” to Odesa Oblast, which is adjacent to Kherson Oblast.
On Friday, the Ukrainian air defenses brought down three Su-34s, killing some of the six aviators on board. A Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter flew in to rescue survivors or bodies. “A dark day,” one Russian military blogger wrote.
Su-34 Fullback – One Of The Deadliest Aircraft With RuAF
The twin-engine, supersonic fighter-bombers are some of the newest in the Russian inventory. They are also increasingly targeted as the war in Ukraine inches toward its third year.
The Su-34 Fullback is a twin-engine, twin-seat, all-weather supersonic medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft deployed extensively by the VKS to carry out air-to-ground strikes and bombing runs on Ukrainian forces. Fully aware of the aircraft’s utility, the VKS has now started to arm it with the most lethal munitions available in its inventory.
In early September 2023, it was revealed that a Su-34 Fullback was equipped with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which it had also fired on a target inside Ukraine.
In another instance, VKS fired its first-ever UMPC FAB-1500 M54 high-explosive fragmentation bombs on a target using the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber. The bomb reportedly hit the designated mark accurately after several months of trial and error.
According to claims made on social media, the fighter could carry at least two of the UMPC FAB-1500 M54 bombs, which would be increased to three in the future. With three such bombs, the Su-34 could fire one at a time or fire three bombs simultaneously aimed at three targets.
As these fighter bombers continue to get more lethal and cutting-edge weaponry, the Russian Air Force also seems to be aware of the threat to the Su-34 parked at air bases and also while conducting combat operations.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
- Follow EurAsian Times on Google News