Espreso. Global

Aircraft and helicopters on fire: Espreso analyzes which Russian airfields were attacked during war

31 December, 2023 Sunday

Ukrainian drones and special operations on Russian territory are becoming more frequent and loud, but explosions at military airfields sound especially satisfying

Espreso recorded 20 strikes (13 in Russia, 4 in the temporarily occupied Crimea, 2 in the temporarily occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk regions, and 1 in Belarus) on Russian airfields since the beginning of the full-scale war.

February 25, 2022: a strike at Millerovo airfield

Tochka U missile system

One of the first explosions at the Russian military airfields occurred at the beginning of the full-scale war. According to unconfirmed information, on February 25, the Ukrainian tactical missile system "Tochka U" fired at a military airfield in the Rostov region.

Photo: social media

At least one Su-30SM was destroyed, and several Russian servicemen were allegedly killed.


March 1, 2022: damage to the IL-76 in the Rostov region


On the first day of spring 2022, many telegram channels reported that an explosion had occurred near the Taganrog military airfield in Rostov Oblast, which had probably damaged an IL-76 military transport aircraft. According to eyewitnesses, the nature of the blast was similar to a missile strike. However, there were no official comments on this from either the Russian invaders or the Armed Forces of Ukraine.


August 9, 2022: destruction of aircraft at the Saki airfield in the occupied Crimea

Photo: Reuters

On August 9, in the afternoon, 9 Russian fighter jets were destroyed near Novofedorivka ( close to Saki) in the occupied Crimea. There was a series of explosions at the Saki air base. Later, Ukraine's military leadership confirmed that these attacks on military bases in Crimea were the efforts of Ukraine's Defense Forces.

Many experts reported that the strike on Saki was carried out with Soviet weapons, but modified. Interestingly, after the successful strike, which Russian tourists observed on the beaches, it was noticed that many of them began to leave Crimea. The number of cars heading toward Russia across the Crimean Bridge broke all the records.  

Photo: Planet Labs

Instead, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the explosions at the airfield were caused by "the detonation of several aircraft munitions," and that no one was allegedly injured or anything destroyed.

It should be noted that the Saki air base is located in the Saki district of the occupied Crimea. It was seized by Russian troops during the annexation of the peninsula in 2014. The 43rd Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces was deployed at the airbase.

We should also remind that since last summer, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have been regularly performing blasts at various Russian military airfields in Crimea.


August 16, 2022: Explosions near Hvardiyske airfield

On August 16, explosions occurred in the temporarily occupied Crimea near the Russian airfield in Hvardiyske. It is located just 13 kilometers from Simferopol. The explosion occurred on the territory of a military camp, probably in a barracks.

After the occupation of the peninsula, the Russians deployed the 37th Mixed Air Force Regiment and two squadrons there: 12 Su-24M and 12 Su-25 SM.

It is worth noting that there have been many loud incidents near this airfield. In particular, on July 20 and August 2 of this year, there were also blasts and photos of smoke in the sky were published.


October 1, 2022: explosions near Sevastopol at the Belbek airport

Photo: social media

On October 1, there was a powerful "boom" at the Belbek airport near Sevastopol. Many photos were posted on social media, taken by vacationers, showing columns of smoke above the airfield. There were also reports of a series of explosions. However, the Russian-appointed authorities claimed that it was caused by an airplane that caught fire for some reason. 

Also, explosions were recorded at this airfield on March 7 this year. 


October 31, 2022: sabotage at Veretie, where attack helicopters are based

Photo: National Guard of Ukraine

On the night of Monday, October 31, two Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters exploded in the Pskov region of the Russian Federation. This time, the "blast wave" hit Veretie (or Ostrov-5), a Russian air base 7 kilometers from the city of Ostrov, near the Latvian border and 600 kilometers from the border with Ukraine. The 15th Brigade of the Russian Army Aviation is based at the airfield, where dozens of helicopters were stationed at the time.

The Ukrainian Defence Intelligence confirmed the strike, writing that two attack helicopters were destroyed and two more were severely damaged.

"As a result of the mining, two Russian alligator attack helicopters KA-52 and one MI-28N were completely destroyed," Ukrainian intelligence officers wrote.

Sever.Realii (a project of Radio Liberty) managed to find out some details of the incident.

"Two explosions occurred in the engine compartments of two helicopters, saboteurs were working... Someone entered the territory of the unit, planted some substance in the engine compartments of two helicopters and detonated it. There was not even a flash, the explosions were directly inside the engine compartments," the source said.


Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov called the incident "one of the best sabotage operations of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine during the war."

November 16, 2022: blast at the airfield in Dzhankoy 

On the evening of November 16, explosions were heard at the airfield in the temporarily annexed Dzhankoy, Crimea. It is known that there were about 80 units of occupiers' equipment at the airfield, including tactical and strategic aviation. 

"We know that Chornobaivka is no longer occupied, there is also Chaplynka, which is already within the range of our artillery, so Dzhankoy airfield is probably used along with Melitopol for Russian helicopters that carry out attacks and support the invaders' ground forces, so likely that there were indeed explosions there," commented Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat.

According to Ihnat, although the airfield and its infrastructure are important, the most crucial is the aircraft located there, which "causes a lot of damage."

"In addition to Dzhankoy, the invaders use five other airfields in Crimea to deploy their aircraft," added the spokesman.

On August 30 this year, a series of powerful explosions were heard near Dzhankoy airfield. It was reported that Russian air defense was operating, allegedly intercepting Ukrainian drones 5 km from the airbase.


December 5, 2022: explosions at Engels and Diagilevo airfields

On the morning of December 5, powerful explosions occurred at two Russian airfields at once. Two Tu-95 missile carriers were damaged by a UAV strike at the strategic aviation base in Engels, Saratov region. These aircraft are actively used to launch missiles at the territory of Ukraine.  Three Russian servicemen who were at the airfield were killed and four others were injured. At the Dyagilevo airfield in the Ryazan region, a Tu-22M3 bomber and a fuel tanker were damaged. Interestingly, the Tu-22M3 was carrying a Kh-22 missile under its wing, which did not fly to bomb Ukraine that morning.

Photo: social media

Shortly thereafter, 9 long-range supersonic bombers disappeared from the Russian air base Dyagilevo near Ryazan. A Tu-22M3, which was damaged during a strike on the Russian Aerospace Forces airbase, also vanished. Presumably, they were relocated to other airfields.

Several publications wrote that the airfields where strategic aviation was based were attacked using a modified Soviet Tu-141 Strizh UAV.

"The key success factor was surprise. Russia simply did not expect anything like this," a Ukrainian government official told Politico.


Military expert Ivan Kyrychevskyi told Espreso that Russian military bases and airfields are very vulnerable, as the Russians are actively using missiles from S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to strike Ukraine.

Photo: Getty Images

On December 26, explosions were heard again near the Russian Engels airfield. An air raid alert was announced in the city. Baza reported that the area of the fire after the explosion was 120 square meters. Three people died. Four more were hospitalized. There was no information about the damaged aircraft.

Russian authorities reported an act of a Ukrainian drone that was allegedly shot down.


February 26, 2023: explosions at the Machulishchi airfield (Belarus)

On the morning of February 26, two blasts erupted at the Machulishchi military airfield near Minsk, damaging a Russian A-50 reconnaissance UAV and snow-clearing equipment. The  Belarusian partisans conducted an attack by using two drones.

The Belarusian opposition claimed that they had been conducting reconnaissance at the Machulishchi airfield for two weeks and released a video of a guerrilla drone landing on the radar station of the A-50U aircraft. It is noted that two DJI drones were used in the attack on the Russian reconnaissance aircraft, which were specially converted into kamikaze drones. Each of them carried a charge of 200 grams of TNT equivalent explosives. The drones also had a load for additional damage. We are talking about metal bullets, the number of which is 200 pieces per drone.

The Beriev A-50 is the most expensive aircraft in the Russian Aerospace Forces. The price is estimated at $330 million. But modernized versions are much more expensive and can cost up to $500 million.


May 3, 2023: UAVs attacked the Seshcha airfield

Photo: open sources

On the night of May 3, the Seshcha airfield in the Bryansk region of the Russian Federation was attacked. Multiple telegram channels reported that 5 UAVs were used in the attack, two of which were allegedly destroyed by small arms fire, and two more exploded on the airfield. Another drone was not found. An AN-124, which is no longer in operation, was damaged. The Russians launched Shahed drones from this airfield.

Before the outbreak of full-scale war, this airfield served mainly for IL-76 and AN-124-100 (Ruslan) transport aircraft. However, a month before Russia invaded Ukraine, bombers and fighters began to appear at the airfield. In particular, Su-34 bombers, which later bombed Ukrainian cities, including Chernihiv.


July 2, 2023: airfield in the Krasnodar Krai

Photo: Mash

On Sunday, July 2, the Krasnodar Krai of the Russian Federation experienced an explosion near the military airfield from which the invaders are launching Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones. A blast caused a 10-meter-diameter crater, the photo of which was shared on social media.

Rosmedia wrote at the time that the air defense system had allegedly shot down a missile that was reportedly trying to attack a fuel depot on the territory of the military airfield.

It is worth noting that the distance from the military airfield to the nearest positions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces is at least 250 kilometers. Russia does not specify what type of weapons were used to strike the Krasnodar region.


August 19, 2023: destruction of two Tu-22m at the Soltsy military airfield

Photo: gettyimages

On August 19, a drone hit the Soltsy military airfield in Russia's Novgorod region, 860 kilometers from Kyiv. The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of the attack. According to Ukrainian intelligence, two Russian Tu-22m strategic bombers were destroyed and two other aircraft were damaged. British intelligence suggested that the drone attack on the Soltsy airfield was carried out from the territory of the Russian Federation.

Photo: social media

Journalist Andriy Tsapliyenko noted that after the strike on the airbase, the Russian invaders began to redeploy several Tu-22m3s to Olenya.


August 21, 2023: drones at the Shaykovka airfield

On the morning of August 21, the Shaykovka airfield in the Kaluga region was attacked, where at least one bomber was destroyed and disabled, allegedly no longer in use.

Representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Andriy Yusov said that the drone attack was carried out by people from central Russia who performed the task in coordination with HUR (Defence Intelligence of Ukraine).

"There are people who, in coordination with the HUR, fulfilled their tasks. They came from central Russia, worked and successfully returned back. As in many other cases, the HUR continues to perform tasks, including on the territory of the aggressor state," Yusov said.

The Shaykovka airfield is used for basing Tu-22M3 long-range aircraft used in the war, and it was from there that the invaders fired four Kh-22 cruise missiles at Ukraine on August 15.


August 27, 2023: SBU attacks Kursk airfield with drones

Photo: Ukrainian Air Force Command

On the morning of Sunday, August 27, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported that counterintelligence attacked a military airfield in Kursk with 16 kamikaze drones. It is noted that military counterintelligence officers from the 13th Main Directorate of the SBU attacked the airfield where the Russian aircraft and air defense systems are stationed. The drones were used to shoot down four Su-30 and one MiG-29 aircraft. They also hit S-300 radars and two Pantsyrs.

The SBU noted that almost all the drones reached their targets, while Russian air defense shot down only 3 of them.

"Considering that even the Russians themselves recorded at least 13 explosions, it was impressive. We will find out the exact consequences of the damage and the number of dead and wounded soon," the statement reads.

Russian propagandists wrote that the attack was carried out allegedly by Australian SYPAQ drones, which can carry 4-5 kilograms of cargo in a kamikaze version.


August 28, 2023: UAVs attack a military airfield in the Bryansk region

On the night of Monday, August 28, drones attacked a military airfield in the Bryansk region of the Russian Federation. According to preliminary information, three kamikaze drones were launched from Ukraine.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine tried to attack a military airfield in the Bryansk region," the Baza Telegram channel said in a statement.

All drones were allegedly destroyed by air defense forces. As a result of the falling debris, the grass on the airfield caught fire. There were no casualties. Military equipment was also allegedly not damaged.

August 30, 2023: four IL-76s are damaged at the airfield in Pskov

Photo: social networks

On the night of August 30, explosions were heard near the Kresty airfield in Pskov. As a result of the drone attack, four IL-76 heavy military transport aircraft were damaged. This was reported by the Russian media.

It is noted that Pskov was attacked by at least 10 unidentified UAVs. Local authorities announced the operation of air defense.

The Kresty airfield is a joint base airport for both civilian and military aircraft. The 334th Military Transport Regiment of the Russian Federation is stationed there.

On August 30, HUR representative Andriy Yusov confirmed in a commentary to Babel that four IL-76 transport aircraft were destroyed during the night attack on Pskov. It is currently being established how many aircraft were damaged.


September 21, 2023: strike on the Saki military airfield in Crimea

Photo: Crimean Wind

On September 21, 2023, the Security Service of Ukraine, together with the Ukrainian Navy, conducted another large-scale fire attack on the Saki military airfield in occupied Crimea. According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there were at least 12 combat aircraft (Su-24 and Su-30) and Pantsyr MANPADS at the airfield.

This airfield also housed a training base for Mojaher UAV operators, which are used by the occupiers to coordinate fire and air attacks.

For this attack, the fighters used drones to overload Russian air defense and then launched Neptune missiles.

Interestingly, even Russian Telegram channels confirmed the serious damage and losses, reporting at least 30 dead soldiers.


October 16-17, 2023: 9 helicopters were destroyed in Luhansk and Berdiansk

On the night of October 16-17, Ukrainian defenders successfully attacked Russian helicopters and airfields in Luhansk and Berdiansk. 

The Special Operations Forces called this operation DRAGONFLY. The Special Operations Forces received information about the enemy's use of airfields in the temporarily occupied Berdiansk and Luhansk, as well as the presence of a significant number of aircraft, special equipment, and ammunition.

According to the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces, 9 helicopters of various modifications, special equipment, an air defense launcher, and an ammunition depot were destroyed in Berdiansk and Luhansk. The runways of the airfields were also damaged.

Viktor Dudukalov, deputy chairman of the Berdiansk District Council, said that that night the Russian occupiers had thrown almost all their forces to eliminate the consequences of the attack on their location at the airfield. 

The Russian Federation called this attack on the airfields where Ka-52 and Mi-28 attack helicopters and transport vehicles are based "the most serious one ever." Moreover, the invaders complained that the strikes were carried out using ATACMS. 

A few days after the strike, British intelligence wrote that Russia's loss of combat helicopters "as a result of Ukraine's first use of ATACMS" on the airfield in Berdiansk would significantly affect the capabilities of Russian forces in this area of the front.

After these strikes, Russia moved Ka-52s and Mi-8s from Berdiansk to Taganrog. 

So, the next was...


November 7, 2023: explosions at the airport in Taganrog

Photo: social media

On November 7, an explosion at the Taganrog airfield in the Russian Federation could have damaged helicopters that had been transferred from Berdiansk. This was reported at the time by the advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andriushchenko, and he published a photo of the blast. However, there was no official confirmation of the strike. 

The Operativno.ZSU telegram channel also wrote that the explosion occurred at a military airfield.

"Locals report that at first loud explosions were heard, and later a column of smoke rose in the airport area," the message read.


December 17, 2023: attack on the Morozovsk airfield in the Rostov region

Photo: Telegram Community Monitor

The attack on the Morozovsk airfield in the Rostov region of the Russian Federation, which took place on the night of December 17, was a joint special operation of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Armed Forces.

As a law enforcement source told Hromadske, the airfield was a key target because it was the base of the 559th Bombing Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces. At the time of the attack, there were up to 20 Su-34 aircraft at the airfield. There were also 3 radar stations and other equipment on the territory of the airfield.

"The airfield was attacked by drones. Although the Russian Federation traditionally managed to claim that all UAVs were shot down, in reality, the Service and the Armed Forces inflicted significant damage to the enemy's equipment," the source said.

Photos were posted on Telegram that confirmed that Ukrainian drones had caused problems for Russian Su-34s.

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