Some analysts believe Moscow could have lost as many as 20 jets in the strike, despite its claim that none had been destroyed
By Joe Barnes, BRUSSELS CORRESPONDENT
11 August 2022 • 8:25pm
Russia appeared to suffer its biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since the Second World War as fresh analysis of the explosive strike at an air base in occupied Crimea contradicted Moscow’s claim that no jets had been destroyed.
A review of new satellite images revealed at least 10 Russian planes had been destroyed or seriously damaged by the series of explosions that rocked the Saky air base in Novofedorivka on Tuesday afternoon.
Military analysts predicted the full extent of the damage sustained by Russia’s air force was still yet to be discovered, with some suggesting Moscow could have lost as many as 20 jets in the attack.
“The satellite imagery presents clear indications that the full tally is higher,” the War Zone website wrote.
The assault, experts said, would also sow further doubt and unrest among the Russian military over its abilities to withstand an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country.
Independent analysts at Oryx, a website that tracks destroyed equipment, assessed four SU-30SM fighter jets had been destroyed, as well as five SU-24M bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.
SIGNS OF DESTRUCTION
Satellite image of the Saki airbase in Crimea show clear damage from explosions
Large craters that analysts say could have been caused by explosives rigged and detonated remotely by Ukrainian special forces
Eight destroyed Russian military planes, including the models Su-24 Fencer, an all-weather attack aircraft developed in the Soviet Union, and the Su-30SM Flanker-H, a twin-engine Russian fighter aircraft for all-weather missions
Scorched and blackened earth, part of the severe damage caused when a fire ripped through the airbase. Large amounts of fuel – a key war resource – appear to have added to the blaze
SOURCE: PLANET LABS
The machines cost tens of millions of pounds each, leaving Russia with an estimated £500 million blow in destroyed aircraft.
Oryx estimates Russia has lost at least 47 aircraft since invading Ukraine on Feb 24, with a fifth of recorded losses happening at the Novofedorivka base.
Two buildings, believed to contain ammunition for the jets, were also wiped out in the blasts, satellite imagery appeared to show.
Russia’s defence ministry said the explosions at the airfield were caused by a “violation of fire safety requirements” near to the munitions, and insisted its jets were undamaged.
Ukraine on Thursday still had not taken responsibility for the attack despite unofficial claims its special forces carried out the daring raid on the Russian site.
But Kyiv continued to mock Russia for the devastation caused by unexplained blasts, suggesting more could follow.
“Unless they want an unpleasantly hot summer break, we advise our valued Russian guests not to visit Ukrainian Crimea,” Ukraine’s defence ministry wrote on Twitter.
“Because no amount of sunscreen will protect them from the hazardous effects of smoking in unauthorised areas.”
The ministry on Thursday unveiled a glitzy social media video, soundtracked by Bananarama’s Cruel Summer, in which it discourages Russian holidaymakers from holidaying in occupied Crimea following the blast.
In its daily assessment of the conflict in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, said Kyiv was deliberately playing on Russian confusion over the attack.
“Ukrainian officials are playing up the evident Russian confusion surrounding the attack to obfuscate Ukraine’s longer-range capabilities,” ISW wrote.
Without official confirmation of the attack, experts were on Thursday still pondering how Ukrainian forces had carried out the assault some 125 miles behind enemy lines.
Analysis of the craters left at the scene showed signs of possible missile strikes, which could have been launched from an unmanned drone, or explosive charges planted at the airfield.
SAKY AIR BASE IN CRIMEA
Left August 9, 2022, Right August 10, 2022CREDIT: Planet Labs PBC/Handout via REUTERS
Oliver Alexander, a Danish military analyst, said videos of the blasts had not been consistent with a missile attack, adding: “Two of the large explosions happen simultaneously to the second. While this is not impossible to achieve with a missile strike, it is easier to achieve with explosive charges placed by a special operation force on the ground.”
Regardless, the attack raised questions over Russia’s ability to defend Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014, and its air attack and defence capabilities.
“Russians could consider moving their aircraft to the southern parts of the peninsula, which would increase fuel consumption for their aircraft operating near front lines,” military analysts Rochan Consulting said.
Several units of S-400 surface-to-air rocket systems in the area were left unactivated if the strike was carried out with a missile, its experts added.
The Saky airfield, Ukrainian officials, said was a key staging post of aerial attacks on Kyiv’s positions in the southern towns of Kherson and Mykolaiv.
Meanwhile, several explosions were reported on Thursday to have rocked a military airbase in Belarus near the Ukrainian border understood to be used by Russia as one of the launchpads for the invasion.
The Belarusian defence ministry dismissed speculation of a Ukrainian attack, two days after unexplained explosions at the airfield in Crimea.
Another fire was reported at a Russian military base near Moscow, where conscripts were said to have been stationed.
“The epidemic of technical accidents at military airfields in Crimea and Belarus should be considered by the Russian military as a warning: forget about Ukraine, take off your uniforms and leave,” Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, tweeted.
In the wake of the apparent Crimea attack, Russia doubled its air strikes on Ukrainian targets including civilians, according to Oleksiy Hromov, the Ukrainian Brigadier General.
Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, also came under fresh bombardment by Russian shelling according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s atomic energy agency.
Some DT readers comments:
David Hinson: “Latest Kremlin update: Some of our warplanes self combusted due to the splendid tourist weather in Crimea, the free firework show as they blew up is yet another reason to spend your holiday there.”
Beer Street: “Not fair. Putin needs these aircraft to bomb hospitals and apartment blocks.
No one said the Ukrainians could fight back, it’s an outrage.”
Bob Riddell: “A replication of ‘The Phantom Major’. David Sterling and The SAS. The actions of brave, focussed, absolutely dedicated people.Good can overcome evil. It requires grit, guts and determination.
God be with these Ukrainian heroes.”
LS CY: “The Ukrainians are taking a leaf or two out of the U.K. forces’ handbook, and making a darn good job of it. Love their sense of humour on top. It lightens the darkness which they are really on a footing to snuff out. And if they can free other countries along the way, what a historical achievement!
It’s lovely to see the world supporting Ukraine and the fight for good; for a better world for all.”
Paul Anderson: “Hey Russians. How much longer are you going to put up with the lunatic that is embarrassing your potentially great country?”
Reply from Julian Hughes: “Russia has been “potentially” great for hundreds of years. But what does it ever achieve? Tyranny, despotism, social and economic incompetence. Maybe the SRs were right, they should simply assassinate everyone in power and prefer rustic anarchy.”
MR WIliam: “Russian pigs need to be stopped shelling nuclear plants! It’s time to throw the full force of the western military at them. They would fold in weeks.”
David McManamon: “This has hints of David Stirling’s SAS operations in North Africa during WWII. Get in, stick bombs on as many aircraft and key installations as possible and then get out. It was a brilliantly executed raid.”
Stephen Jarvis: “The destruction of the Kerch bridge, needs to be left to the last possible moment to allow the retreating Russian army to get back and out of the Crimea.”
Pam Demik: “The Russian military reflect the true nature of Russia.”
Reply from Stuart Booth: “Absolute barbarians. The savagery of Russian troops against civilians and pows has a long tradition. This is not the exception with Russians, it’s the norm. The sooner the world cuts Russia completely out of every loop, the better.”
Martin Teling: “The saddest thing is that whilst the russian warplanes and ammunition storage facilities spontaneously combust in stolen Crimea and puppet Belarus….. the woman and children of sovereign Ukraine are not – they are being murdered by putin with the support of the majority of the russian people.”
Carpe Jugulum: “Putin the ‘Strategist’s reputation is now in tatters along with those of the Russian armed forces and arms industry.
The Russian army are militarily inept, ill disciplined murdering thugs.
Russian kit is garbage. The supposedly ‘invulnerable’ Kamov Alligator attack helicopter can be brought down by machine gun fire and their tanks are defeated by $10,000 missiles.
The arms industry, once the second largest in the world is now dead. The Sukhoi Checkmate that was supposed to be funded by foreign buyers now only has one ….. Algeria.
Russia is now a pariah state. As Western weapons outmatch Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are trained in the UK Russia’s situation just keeps getting worse.
At some point it will occur to a general that the best strategic move is a bullet through Putin’s dentures.
I hope he sees it coming.”
Whichever way the UA forces achieved this strike, it was brilliant.