Russia Loses A-50 Recon Jet, Il-22 Bomber as Putin's Air Defenses Blamed

Russia Loses A-50 Recon Jet, Il-22 Bomber as Putin’s Air Defenses Blamed

A rare $300 million Russian early warning and control aircraft and an Ilyushin plane were allegedly hit by Russia’s own air defenses over the Azov Sea.

Multiple Russian Telegram channels reported that Moscow lost a Beriev A-50 Shmel (Bumblebee), NATO reporting name, Mainstay, in a case of friendly fire late on Sunday. It was also reported that an Ilyushin Il-22M airborne command postwas damaged.

A Beriev A-50 flies over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, on June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia. An A-50 and and an Ilyushin plane have allegedly been hit by Russia’s own air defenses over the Azov Sea.
Evgeny Biyatov – Host Photo Agency/Getty Images
The Beriev A-50 Shmel is a Soviet-era reconnaissance aircraft that is used to prepare strikes and prevent enemy attacks. Russia has only 10 of the aircraft, each of which costs an estimated $330 million, reported Radio Svoboda, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, citing government data.

The Rybar Telegram channel, which has links to Russia’s Defense Ministry, said the aircraft could have been struck in “friendly fire” from Russian air defense.

However, the director of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency claimed that Kyiv downed the Russian “Bumblebee” A-50 early warning and control aircraft.

Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, told The War Zone on Monday that Ukrainian forces had destroyed an A-50 and damaged an Il-22M airborne command post.

RBC-Ukraine also reported Monday, citing an unnamed source in the Ukrainian military, that the aircraft were shot down by Ukrainian forces.

Yurii Mysiahin, deputy head of the committee on national security, defense and intelligence of the Ukrainian Parliament, said on his Telegram channel that Ukrainian units conducted an attack on two of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ aircraft on Sunday evening, specifically targeting the A-50 and the Il-22M plane.

The A-50 was downed and the IL-22M “was in the air and tried to reach the nearest airfield, but it disappeared from the radar after the descent began, in the Kerch area,” Mysiahin said.

The Kremlin hasn’t commented on the reports. Newsweek couldn’t independently verify the reports and has contacted Russia’s Defense Ministry for comment by email.

The A-50 disappeared from radars in the Kyrylivka area in southern Ukraine and stopped responding to requests from Russian tactical aviation at about 9:10 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. local time. Later a pilot of a Russian Su-30 jet discovered “the ignition and crash of an unidentified aircraft,” RBC-Ukraine reported.

The news outlet also released a recording that purportedly shows an intercepted conversation between an Il-22M pilot, who requested an emergency landing at Russia’s Anapa International Airport, and a dispatcher.

Illia Ponomarenko, a Ukrainian journalist, said on X (formerly Twitter) that if confirmed, it would mark “the biggest Ukrainian air victory of this war so far.”

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Correction 01/15/24, 6:03 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and corrected to amend the type of aircraft allegedly hit.

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