Trapped: Western analyst voices version of the downing of the Russian A-50 aircraft over the Sea of Azov
The Ukrainian radar and missile crews that shot down the Russian A-50 stealth aircraft were lured into a trap. This likely occurred when Ukrainian Su-24 bombers targeted Russian air force facilities throughout the occupied Crimean peninsula.
This theory was voiced by analyst Tom Cooper, as reported by Forbes. According to him, several radars were disabled - the surviving missile batteries on the peninsula were partially "blinded," especially in the north, where the terrain can mask Ukrainian planes, drones, and missiles approaching.
So, as Cooper suggested, the Russian commanders did the obvious but stupid thing: one of their few A-50U radar planes, which normally flies far south over the Sea of Azov, was ordered to move further north to expand radar coverage over much of Crimea. The A-50's rotary-wing radar can detect targets as small as an airplane at a distance of nearly 200 miles.
The A-50 was accompanied by an IL-22M airborne command post with about 10 crew members. This aircraft is a radio relay platform. Its crew assists the A-50 crew by providing communications and data transmission for which the A-50 lacks the power and processing capability.
According to the article, satellite imagery and radar data indicate that the northernmost route of the A-50 flight is over occupied Berdiansk, just 75 miles from the front line. This is within range of the only battery of Patriot air defense systems of the three that the Ukrainian air force has deployed along the southern front.
"All the Ukrainians had to do was secretly deploy a suitable SAM to hit both planes from a long distance. Perhaps it was one of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems. Perhaps one of the PAC-2/3," Cooper wrote.
In addition, there are some facts pointing to the combination of S-300 and Patriot systems. It is noted that a Su-34 fighter-bomber of the Russian Air Force detected a previously unknown Ukrainian S-300 battery, which turned on its radar a few minutes before the A-50 and Il-22 were shot down.
"The Patriot turned on its radar for only a few seconds: long enough to get its own targeting data, but too short for the Russians to reliably detect its emissions and assess them as a threat," Cooper speculated.
"And then the Ukrainians launched their missiles," he said.
When the systems fired, Ukrainian crews quickly packed them up to avoid any possible Russian retaliation.
Earlier it was noted that Russia had 8 A-50s left. However, Cooper claims that there are only two. The remaining six need to be modernized and overhauled.
"If the Russian air force does not want to risk the last two airworthy A-50s, it must accept its new inability to provide radar coverage of the entire Crimea," the analyst said.
As reported by OBOZ.UA:
- On January 15, Ukraine confirmed that the Defense Forces had destroyed a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and seriously damaged an Il-22 commando aircraft on the night of January 14.
- The ISW noted that Russia is massively promoting the thesis that the A-50 was not downed by Ukrainians but by Russian air defense, which opened "friendly fire." The fake about the "human factor" as the key reason for the loss of the aircraft is needed by Russia to convince its pilots that flights over the Black and Azov Seas are still safe for them.