Russian Su-35 Fighters Conducted Intensified Precision Strikes to Support Avdiivka Campaign – Reports

New details have emerged regarding the Russian Armed Forces campaign to capture strategically located town of Avdiivka, which was abandoned by Ukrainian forces on February 17. Continued fighting in the surrounding area has since seen the Ukrainian Army make its first ever deployment of newly supplied M1A1 Abrams tanks, which were confirmed to have engaged in hostilities in the region on February 23 before taking their first confirmed combat loss three days later. A growing number of sources have indicated that during the campaign to capture the town the Russian Air Force played a key role, and intensively bombarded Ukrainian ground forces both within Avdiivka and in surrounding areas. An unusual aspect of the campaign was the reported deployment of Su-35 air superiority fighters for bombing missions using precision guided glide bombs, as the more widely operated and less costly Su-34 and Su-30SM fighters have more commonly been assigned such missions

The Su-35 was designed for high end air superiority missions, and has gained significantly more air to air kills than any other post Cold War fighter class in the world, including multiple reported kills against Ukraine’s top fighter class the Su-27 Flanker. Shortly after the capture of Avdiivka Ukrainian forces were confirmed on February 17 to have gained their second confirmed kill against a Su-35 since the outbreak of war two years ago using ground based air defence assets. This indicates that the aircraft may have been operating unusually close to the frontlines, which would be the case if they were carrying out bombing missions as reported. It is uncertain why Su-35s were assigned to bomb enemy targets, but their unique integration of L-band active electronically scanned array radars in their wing roots may have been considered valuable for electronic warfare against enemy assets in the area.

The Russia Ministry of Defence reported that precision strikes in the campaign for  Avdiivka peaked at 400 in a day, including surface to surface missiles and guided artillery as well as air strikes. It is uncertain what portion of this the air force was responsible for, and the proportion of the burden for air strikes shouldered by Su-35s specifically. Ukrainian personnel speaking to Western media have in recent months particularly lamented the effectiveness of attacks by glide bombs, which have supplemented Russia’s growing superiority in artillery and tactical ballistic missile capabilities and contributed to the tremendous casualty rates which the country’s frontline units have continued to suffer.