Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Army chief, reported that the air force “eliminated” an A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an Il-22 air control center.
The A-50 plays a crucial role in detecting air defenses and coordinating targets for Russian jets.
Despite ongoing challenges in the south-east, Ukraine executed a well-planned operation in the Azov region, according to Gen Zaluzhnyi on Telegram.
The Ukrainian Air Force commander, Mykola Oleshchuk, commented on the incident without divulging specific details.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence mentioned on February 23 that Russia likely operated six A-50s, each costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Russian officials claim to have no information about the attacks, but pro-war commentators acknowledge the potential significance of losing an A-50.
Reports suggest that the Il-22 command center may have been hit by Russian “friendly fire” but managed to land back in Russia.
Last year, Belarusian opposition group BYPOL claimed responsibility for damaging an A-50 in a drone attack near Minsk.
Air war specialist Justin Bronk stated that if confirmed, the loss of an A-50 would be operationally significant and embarrassing for Russia’s air force.
He highlighted the A-50’s role as a key command, control, and surveillance platform providing long-range early warning and target information.
Bronk noted the limited number of A-50s and trained mission crews within the Russian air force, emphasizing that the loss of one would be a major setback.
The engagement would stretch the theoretical capabilities of Ukrainian Patriot air defense missiles if confirmed, he added.
Amidst numerous challenges, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, described the incident as a “small bit of good news for Ukraine.” The overall situation for Ukraine remains challenging, with shortages of ammunition, low troop morale, and continued infrastructure attacks by Russia.