Military News

How the loss of one plane is a significant loss for Russia

Since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has lost dozens of planes. Losing just one aircraft hurts.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
russia plane il-22
The Il-22 is an extremely limited resource for the Russian military (twitter.com/Heroiam_Slava)

All out, near-peer modern warfare is a conflict of attrition. With similar capabilities, human casualties and material losses are expected on both sides. Since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has lost dozens of planes. However, the loss of just one aircraft has seriously affected the Russian war effort.

pantsir-s1
The Pantsir-S1 is a self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile system (U.S. Army)

On June 24, 2023, a Russian Il-22M VzPU was shot down in Voronezh Oblast. The aircraft was reportedly intercepted by a surface-to-air missile fired by a Pantsir-S1 Air Defence System during its ascent. Designated the SA-22 Greyhound by NATO, the missile system was reportedly seized by Wagner Group mercenaries and used against federal Russian forces during the Wagner rebellion.

e-4b nightwatch
The Il-22M is an airborne command post like the E-4B Nightwatch (Miguel Ortiz/WATM)

The Ilyushin Il-22M is a four-engined turboprop airborne command post based on the Il-18 airliner, which first flew in 1957. Given the NATO designation Coot-B, the Il-22M is a modernized version of the older Il-22, which was retroactively designated the Coot-A. With a reported maximum altitude of 39,000 feet, the Il-22M flies high above the battlefield to provide commanders with greater situational awareness and improved control of their forces. Its role is similar to that of the U.S. Air Force’s E-4B “Nightwatch” Advanced Airborne Command Post.

russia plane Il-22 crash
The downing of the Il-22M was confirmed by the British MOD (twitter.com/Osinttechnical)

The Russian Aerospace Forces reportedly have just 20 Il-22s, 12 upgraded to the Il-22M version. The loss of the Il-22M in Voronezh, registered RA-85917, is a reduction in capability for Russia and an example of the aircraft’s vulnerability. The leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a public statement, “We regret that we had to hit air assets, but those assets were dropping bombs and launching missile strikes.”

While the Il-22M is not an armed aircraft, it is still an extremely valuable military target that is vital for command and control on the battlefield. Prigozhin further expressed his regret for shooting the plane down by offering a sum of 50 million rubles to families of the 10 Russian service members killed aboard. Wagner forces also reportedly shot down six Russian helicopters during their rebellion. However, the Il-22M is the only fixed-wing aircraft that Russia lost.