The Ukrainian Air Force lost two Su-25 attack jets and an Mi-8 helicopter in intensified clashes with Russian forces, according to a report from the Russian Defence Ministry on August 27. The ministry reported: “Russian fighter jets shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter near the settlement of Zalivnoye in the Zaporozhye Region. Air defence systems shot down two Su-25 planes of the Ukrainian air force near the settlements of Malaya Tokmachka and Novodanilovka in the Zaporozhye Region.” Regarding other notable victories gained by Russian air defences, the ministry further elaborated: “During the day, nine HIMARS rockets were intercepted. Apart from that, 30 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed near the settlements of Nikolayevk, Privolye, and Topolevka in the Lugansk People’s Republic, Lozovoye, Ivanovka, Semigorye, and Podgornoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Novoye, Chapayevka, Tokmak, and Skelevatoye in the Zaporozhye Region, and Vasilyevka in the Kherson Region.” The ministry report claimed that 466 Ukrainian manned fixed wing aircraft, 247 helicopters, and 6,152 unmanned aircraft have been downed since the escalation of hostilities in February 2022. The report closely follows the loss of three of Ukraine’s top pilots on a combat mission announced two days prior, as well as reports that the HIMARS system initially relied on heavily for precision strikes on Russian and East Ukrainian positions had become increasingly less effective as Russian forces developed more advanced countermeasures.
The Su-25 is the last class of manned close air support jet produced anywhere in the world, and was inherited by eight Soviet successor states including both Russia and Ukraine, the latter which inherited close to 100 airframes. The class has seen widespread combat operations across three continents including supporting Russian counterinsurgency efforts in Syria and flying for both sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Known as the ‘flying tank,’ it is broadly analogous in its role to the American A-10 Warthog and is heavily armoured to be able to withstand fire from both surface to air missiles and anti air artillery in order to operate at low altitudes in support of ground units. The aircraft have played a much more prominent role on the Ukrainian side due to limited numbers of aircraft from other classes available, where the Russian Air Force’s fleet remains far less depleted allowing it to rely on more survivable assets to lay down fire. The Su-25, like most Russian combat jets from its generation, was designed to be able to operate from makeshift airfields allowing it to continue operations despite major Russian strikes on airbases across Ukraine. Unlike the MiG-29 fighter, which is the only other combat jet Ukraine operates in significant numbers, the Su-25 was not widely operated by Warsaw Pact states in Eastern Europe meaning there are not significant surpluses of the aircraft in the inventories of NATO member states available for donation to the Ukrainian Air Force.