Russian A-50U AWACS ‘SAMBushed’ Using Patriot Air Defense Missile In January, US Colonel Confirms

In what may be the first such admission of its kind, a US official has said that the A-50 spy plane of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) was shot down by a Patriot missile defense battery deployed by Ukraine at the frontline, thus confirming previous claims made by the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian Fighter Jet, For 1st Time, Hits Command Node Inside Mainland Russia After ‘OK’ From NATO: Media

A video emerged on social media on June 10 showing Colonel Rosanna Clemente, assistant chief of staff of the 10th US Army, speaking at the Fires Symposium. Talking about Ukraine’s air defense capability bolstered by NATO states’ assistance, she admits that one of the Patriots supplied to Ukraine “engaged” a Russian A-50U Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

In the video (see below), Clemente talks about the German truck-mounted Patriots missile defense system being moved around by the Ukrainian air defense forces to carry out some “historic things,” like engaging the A-50 in January.

She also briefly talks about Ukraine’s ‘SAMbush’ tactic, or the Surface-to-Air Missile Ambush tactic devised by Kyiv’s forces to hunt down Russian combat aircraft before they approach Ukraine’s cities.

The video, reportedly first published by ‘AirPowerNEW1’ on social media site X (previously Twitter), did not give details about Colonel Rosanna Clemente’s views or the date the comments were made. However, what is seen is a banner of the ‘Fires Symposium’ in the background, which was hosted in May 2024.

It is likely the first such admission made by the US Army which confirms Ukraine’s previous claims and refutes those made by Russian military bloggers. In January this year, Ukraine’s Army chief Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi said the country’s air force had “destroyed” an A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an Il-22 control center plane.

At that time, while the Russians acknowledged the loss of the aircraft, they did not offer information about how it was destroyed. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stated that he was unaware of Ukraine hitting the aircraft. He directed Russian journalists to the Defense Ministry, which did not respond to the allegation.

Furthermore, several military bloggers, some with links to the Russian military, noted on Telegram that it was likely a case of friendly fire.

As the Ukrainian claims started to circulate, several military watchers predicted how Ukraine had managed to shoot down the Russian aircraft. A popular assumption was that they used one of their ‘Franken’ surface-to-air missiles—created by mating Patriot missiles with their S-300 systems- to achieve spectacular success.

However, the video going around may be the first instance in which a US Army official has noted that the aircraft was brought down using the Patriot. EurAsian Times has no information on whether other air defense systems were also involved in the operation. However, there is agreement that the system was dangerously close to the frontline.

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian claims, the UK Ministry of Defense alleged that a Russian A-50 likely suffered an explosion, leading to its subsequent crash into the Sea of Azov. Additionally, it pointed out that the Russian Air Force initiated operations with another A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft — albeit within Russian borders.

The Patriot has been credited with shooting down at least some of Russia’s Su-34 Fullback fighter jets earlier this year. However, the shootdown of the A-50 remains the most significant — given that Russia has only a handful of these aircraft capable of carrying out Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance (ISR) missions.

The latest video, which has gone viral on social media, comes at a time when Ukraine has intensified its pitch for air defense systems along with long-range weapons from its NATO partners. Some NATO states, including Germany, are weighing their options.


More Patriots For Ukraine Under Consideration

According to a report by Bloomberg on June 7, which cited anonymous sources, Germany is considering giving Ukraine a fourth Patriot air defense battery. This comes as Kyiv has stepped up its demands for increased air defense in response to growing Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and infrastructure.

Even though Berlin has not made a final decision regarding the delivery date of this fourth battery, the reports come weeks after it pledged to send a Patriot air-defense system to Ukraine in April. The Biden Administration, too, is poised to transfer an additional Patriot battery to Kyiv. The Pentagon says it will “rush” Patriot air defense missiles and artillery ammunition to Ukraine as part of its new military aid package.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense also announced its desire to collaborate with other nations to provide Kyiv with an additional Patriot system soon.

The Patriot has, on its part, proved its combat potential in Ukraine. For instance, amongst its biggest claimed combat victories are reports about the Patriot shooting down the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which was projected as invincible by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has also allegedly shot multiple Russian fighter jets in the ongoing war.

The combat performance of the system has spurred global demand for it.

While claims and counter-claims regarding the destruction of valuable military assets are not new, the acknowledgment that a Patriot was responsible for the destruction of the A-50 is likely to add more muscle to the system, which has seen an incredible surge in popularity in recent times.