Russian aviation tactics in Ukraine may shift amid losses
The recent fails of the Russian Air and Space Forces prompted a reevaluation of tactics. How will they adapt after losing several aircraft to Ukrainian defenses?
Defense Express writes about it.
Over the past few days, the Russian air force has suffered significant blows as Ukrainian defenses shot down four Su-34 bombers and a Su-30 fighter jet. This unexpected resistance likely stunned both Russian pilots and command, challenging their established paradigm of missile launches from a safe distance.
The Southern Operational Command reported a sharp decline in Russian air activity after three Su-34s were downed simultaneously on December 22. The recent loss of a Su-30 in the Black Sea and another Su-34 in Melitopol suggests the enemy might be reassessing their approach in these regions.
The current pause in hostilities indicates that Russian strategists are grappling with how to proceed. Initial assessments point to concerns about long-range air defense systems, particularly the Patriot, known to have a range of 160 km against aerodynamic targets.
This poses a conundrum for Russian aviation, given that the ranges of their most advanced guided missiles fall within the Patriot's reach. The Kh-59MK, with an extended range of up to 290 km, is an exception. However, this presents limitations as it exceeds the effective range of other tactical aviation weapons.
Placing the Patriot at a strategic 60 km from the front line effectively closes an additional 100 km of occupied territory for the Russian troops. Yet, the effectiveness of Patriot's target destruction diminishes at lower altitudes due to the radio horizon effect.
Flying at extremely low altitudes can evade radar detection, but it compromises the range of aviation weapons. For instance, during tests of the JDAM-ER prototype, lower altitudes resulted in shorter ranges for bombs and rockets due to increased air resistance.
Russian forces may attempt to counter this by launching bombs in a lofted trajectory mode, potentially reducing exposure to anti-aircraft missiles. However, there are questions about the durability during such maneuvers.
In essence, the Russian Air and Space Forces face a critical decision—adapt their tactics to evade advanced air defenses or risk continued losses.