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Russia Ukraine War

Russian Combat Aircraft Valued At $1bn Have Been Shot Down Since the Start Of 2024 

Ukrainian air defence have shot down Russian combat aircraft valued at almost $1bn USD since the beginning of 2024, intelligence sources have confirmed. 

Up to 31 Russian aircraft are believed to have been destroyed since the start of the year, suggesting that as many as 340 aircraft have been lost since the start of President Vladimir Putin’s special military operation which began in February 2022. 

SU-35 shot down

One military expert has already warned that the current rate of losses is unsustainable. David Axe, a military expert at Forbes magazine, said: “As the shoot-downs continue, the Russian air force soon could face a hard choice: fly less often or risk a downward spiral in readiness. 
“The Russian air campaign in Ukraine is unsustainable and it becomes even less sustainable with every additional jet the Ukrainians shoot down.” 

In just two weeks, the Ukrainian military shot down 10 Su-34 fighter-bomber jets, two Su-35 jets and one Russian A-50 Soviet-era reconnaissance aircraft, which is used to prepare strikes and prevent enemy attacks. Each A-50 aircraft, which has a crew of 15, costs an estimated $330 million. 

A-50 Russian spy plane

All the aircraft were destroyed over a 13-day period between 17th and 29th February. 
The losses continued into March. Ukraine’s air force said it had downed a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber, just one day after Kyiv said it had taken out another Su-34 close to the Russian-controlled southern city of Mariupol. 

The commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, said on his Telegram account: “Today, February 29, is a date that occurs once every four years, but it is already a familiar day for Russians with the loss of another plane, Minus Su-34 in the Eastern direction! Thanks for the work! Ukrainian victory on earth is forged in heaven!”

SU-34 combat jet

The Russian loss was also announced by Ukraine’s defence ministry, which wrote: “A new day—a newly destroyed Russian plane,” the ministry said in a post on social media. 

“Ukrainian warriors shot down a Su-34 fighter-bomber in the eastern direction. Maybe Russia has started using the tactics of kamikaze planes.” 

The loss of so many aircraft in such a short period of time has forced Russian commanders to limit the number of combat sorties, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

The ISW said: “Recent relatively high Russian aviation losses appear to be prompting a significant decrease in Russian aviation activity in eastern Ukraine.” 

Valuing aircraft is an inexact science, but estimates suggest that an A-50 radar detection plane is worth around $300 million. Each Su-34 has a value of between approximately $36 and $50 million, and a Su-35 costs in the region of $40 million. 

SU-35 combat jet

Figures from Ukraine’s military show that Russia has lost 18 planes since the start of January, totaling approximately $150 million before 17th February. 

In total, the estimated costs of Russian aircraft losses since the start of 2024 are at approximately $1 billion. Despite the size of Russia’s air force, losing 15 aircraft in just a few weeks represents an embarrassment for Moscow. Along with a loss of expensive aircraft, Russia will also have lost vital expertise when pilots are killed as the jets come down. 

The ISW think tank reported that despite the loss of experienced pilots and aircraft it had “yet to prompt Russian forces to significantly decrease tactical aviation activity.” 

Russia was instead attempting to press forward on the Avdiivka front, deciding continued “offensive operations with air support outweigh the risk of losing more aircraft”. 

But the ISW warned the recent loss of aircraft, and “highly trained pilots” was “not negligible” for the Russians. 

Sean Rayment is the Defence and Security Editor for National Security News. He is also a best selling author, broadcaster and award-winning defence and security journalist. He has also previously served as an officer in Parachute Regiment Officer. He has reported from war zones around the world including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Africa, and Northern Ireland and is one of the few British journalists to twice visit the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He has written for virtually all British national newspapers and specialises in security, intelligence, and defence reporting, with a specific interest in mental health issues in the military community. Sean is also the author of Bomb Hunters and Tales from the Special Forces Club. He also co-wrote the international bestselling Painting the Sand with Kim Hughes GC and Endurance with former SAS operator Louis Rudd.