‘Lucky Escape’ For Su-35 But Ukraine Claims Downing Another Su-34, 7th Russian Jet In Less Than A Week

In a possible setback to the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), Ukraine has allegedly shot down another Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber. If true, this would bring the total number of Russian jets shot down to a whopping seven in less than a week, as per Ukrainian claims. 

A Russian Su-34 fighter bomber was downed by the air force once again, the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed on the morning of February 21. The message was initially posted on the official Telegram channel by the Commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“This time, I can say that the Su-35 pilot was lucky: he maneuvered and is no longer taking risks. But the Su-34 crew is joining our column ‘Eternal flight, brothers’,” Commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk said.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense also announced the downing of the aircraft on Platform X without giving specific details about where the aircraft was shot down. “+1 Russian plane destroyed. Again? Again! Another Russian Su-34 fighter bomber was shot down by Ukrainian air defenders. The day when enemy planes fall is a great day,” read the post.

Although none of the official announcements mentioned how the Ukrainian Armed Forces managed to shoot the Su-34 down on February 21, social media was abuzz with speculation that the job was done by a Patriot missile defense battery, which has been credited with a host of other Russian jet shoot outs in the past week.

One Patriot battery has been stationed in Kyiv and one each in the east and south by the Ukrainian air force. Truck-mounted launchers attached to a battery can move and spread out while maintaining a connection to the battery’s radars.

EurAsian Times, however, could not independently confirm whether the Patriots had shot down the Fullback fighter bomber.

Earlier, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk had stated his forces had obliterated four Russian aircraft over the weekend, including three Su-34s and one Su-35. Following that, another announcement noted that two more fighters, a Su-34, and a Su-35S, were shot down on February 19. With another Su-34 shot down today, the number has swelled to seven Sukhoi jets in less than seven days, as per claims.

Russia, however, has not officially accepted the claims made by Ukraine and has yet to comment on the reports of this recent Sukhoi downing. But if the claims are verified, it may not augur well for the Russians who have been advancing into Ukrainian territory, such as Avdiivka.

A recent study published by the Institute of the Study of War (ISR) stated that Russia’s air force appeared to have established air superiority over the war-torn town as its ground forces advanced to seize Avdiivka, paving the path for crucial close-air supporting missions.

Even though it is merely momentary and limited, it seemed to be the first time — since Russia’s full-scale invasion started nearly two years ago — that the country managed to take control over the skies in a front-line location. In a study published recently, war experts warned that it may be “devastating” if this localized air superiority was to persist or grow, which they believed was a possibility given the strain on Ukraine’s air defenses.

The claims of Ukrainian air defenses taking down multiple Su-34 and Su-35 fighters in a day essentially mean that Russian air superiority may be highly localized and fleeting.

Some pro-Ukrainian military experts mocked, saying that Russia’s “so-called” air superiority was interrupted by Ukrainian Patriots while asserting that all the Sukhoi jets were downed by the PAC.

The Su-35 is a Super Capable Aircraft

The Su-34 is considered to be Russia’s best fighter bomber, firing long-range missiles and smart bombs on Ukrainian targets. The jet is frequently seen operating with the Su-35, which is why the Ukrainian air defenses have claimed downing pairs of these jets flying in tandem.

The Su-34 is a widely used and the best strike aircraft in Russia’s inventory. They have recently been credited with lobbing KAB precision glide bombs at Ukrainian positions from a distance without coming within the range of the Ukrainian air defense systems.

As ‘air superiority’ fighters, the supersonic Su-35s accompany the Su-34s. The first three Su-34s were brought down when they were allegedly flying 60 miles away from Avdiivka on February 17. At the time, they were believed to be lining up to fire glide bombs, according to a Forbes report.

Su-34 Russia
File: Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber.

According to reports, each Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber, which has been extensively deployed by the VKS along the frontline, costs $50 million. With at least five of them now down, Russia may have lost $250 million worth of aircraft. Adding the cost of a Su-35S to this, the loss becomes even bigger and not one that the Russians could afford at this juncture.

However, as opposed to five Su-34 fighter bombers, only two Su-35 aircraft were brought down by Ukraine. Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk specifically mentioned that the Su-35 pilot maneuvered and was not taking risks. While he did not explain his statement in detail, it does bring into focus that the Su-35 is a super-maneuverable aircraft with cutting-edge capabilities.

The Su-35 boasts exceptional super maneuverability capabilities, allowing it to execute complex aerial maneuvers and maintain an edge in air-to-air combat.

Ukrainian pilots have admitted on camera that they consider the Russian Su-35 their “biggest enemy.” While they can predict the positions and ranges of air defense systems, the mobile nature and advanced air surveillance capabilities of the Su-35 pose challenges for Ukrainian pilots flying toward the front lines.

A pair of Russian Air Force Su-35 jets during a training mission

Alexander, the deputy commander of a Su-35 aviation squadron, had previously said, “The squadron’s primary duty is to overcome air defense systems, a mission he and his comrades can complete easily. Furthermore, operational and tactical aviation combat sorties are flown from temporary airfields to complete the tasks.”

As the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) said, the Su-35 “combines the qualities of a modern fighter (super-maneuverability, superior active and passive acquisition aids, high supersonic speed and long range, the capability of managing battle group actions, etc.) and a good tactical airplane (wide range of weapons that can be carried, modern multi-channel electronic warfare system, reduced radar signature, and high combat survivability).