Spook 86 explains, on the basis of a Russian defense analysis described in Aviation Week, how Russian air losses in the brief war with Georgia last summer were twice as bad as were reported, and Russian air defense systems were responsible.
In its latest assessment, (Russia’s Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technology) CAST confirms that Russian forces lost eight aircraft to adversary air defenses and fratricide. The four additional aircraft–which the Russian Air Force has reported as combat losses–include the following:
–SU-24MR Fencer E reconnaissance aircraft, shot down on 8 August
–SU-25 Frogfoot CAS aircraft, lost on 9 August
–SU-24M Fencer frontal strike aircraft, downed on 10 or 11 August
–Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship (loss date undetermined)
CAST also reports that Georgian air defenses damaged at least three other SU-25s, which managed to return to base.
Officially, Moscow has claimed that it lost only four aircraft during the Georgian campaign, a TU-22M Backfire bomber and three SU-25s, all shot down on the first day of the war (8 August). Russian Air Force officials say the four jets were downed by Georgian SA-11 SAM batteries.
As for those “other” losses, CAST claims the Fencers fell victim to shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles while the SU-25 was downed by friendly fire–specifically, a MANPAD SAM launched by a Russian ground unit.
The think tank also repeats its assessment that Russian Air Force units were unprepared for operations against a relatively modern air defense system. We second that notion, and believe it’s worth repeating a related point, which we made last August. Moscow’s lack of preparation is largely inexcusable, since it already knew that Tiblisi had purchased the SA-11 (and other air defense systems) from Ukraine. The embarrassment is compounded by the fact that the systems which knocked down those Russian aircraft were originally designed–and built–in Russia (emphasis ours). …
For 50 years, Russian scientists and engineers have produced some of the world’s most lethal air defense systems. But Moscow never believed its pilots would have to fly against Russian-built SAMs. That’s one reason the Russian Air Force learned a hard lesson in Georgia last summer.