Burning Russian ‘Combatant’ fighter falls over Crimea in flames

The online community is abuzz with a video capturing an intense scene of a plunging Russian plane enshrouded in fire. The reports from both Russian and Western circles identify it as a Su-35S, often referred to as the Combatant variant because of the ‘S’ in the name. The plane crash was confirmed by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozzhaev. 

Burning Russian 'Combatant' fighter falls over Crimea in flames
Photo credit: Telegram

Russian reports suggest that the plane crashed into the sea, a mere 300 meters off the Crimean shoreline, with the pilot managing a timely ejection. The exact reason behind the Russian fighter’s fall remains a point of dispute among those analyzing the situation. Russian sources believe that the root cause has yet to be identified, although a potential technical glitch is suspected. So far, no official statement has been made by the Russian military. “Nonetheless, the plane most likely went down due to some technical complications, followed by an ensuing fire,” suggested the Russian media.

Contrariwise, several Western media, including the British Express, speculate on an instance of friendly fire. They reference the assertions made on Telegram by both Fighterbomber and VChK-OGPU channels. According to these Telegram communications, Russia’s own air defense system may have mistaken the $117 million plane for an enemy and shot it down.

Photo showing 'an Iranian Su-35s' has caused a flurry on the web
Photo credit: Twitter

Su-35 in Ukraine

During the conflict, the Russian Su-30SM and Su-35S fighters were involved in airspace control missions. Several aerial victories over Ukrainian combat aircraft, including those over Mi-14s of the Ukrainian Naval Aviation, were claimed. On May 9, confirmation was received from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense concerning the death of Colonel Igor Bedzai, who served as the Deputy Chief of the Aviation Service of the Navy of Ukraine. His Mi-14PS was reportedly shot down by a Su-35 from Russia. 

At the same time, we received reports of Russian Su-35s being shot down too. It is reported that a Russian Su-35S was downed by Ukrainian forces on April 3, 2022. The captive pilot confessed that his Su-35S was shot down near Izyum in a confrontation with Ukrainian air defenses. 

4.5-Gen Su-35 on SEAD mission was shot down over Ukraine by SAM
Photo credit: Twitter

The Ukrainian Air Force command announced the incident of a Russian Su-35 being shot down near Kakhovka by Ukrainian air defenses on July 19, 2022. Although no photographic evidence was initially provided, photos of the crash site were revealed in early February 2023, confirming the downed aircraft as a Su-35S. Fast forward to May 14, 2023, a Su-35 jet in the Bryansk region was shot down by a Ukrainian MIM-104 Patriot missile. A similar incident followed on May 22, 2023, primarily in the same region. 

S-300’s friendly fire

A friendly fire incident occurred on September 28, 2023, when a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile inadvertently shot down a Su-35 aircraft near the Tokmak region. Initial reports suggest that the S-300 missile’s fire control radar failed to effectively differentiate friend from foe, leading to the accidental downing of their own aircraft. In February 2024, Ukrainian Air Defense systems shot down two Su-35s, as stated by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. They dubbed this as their ‘highest accomplishment in shooting down Russian aircraft since October 2022’, as they claimed to have downed ten Su-34s and one A-50 within the same month.

Su-35 fired a BVR missile to shoot down the Mi-8 at the border
Photo credit: Twitter

About Su-35S

Let’s delve into the essence of the Su-35S, an incredibly advanced multi-role fighter originating from the Sukhoi Su-35 series. Manufactured by Russia’s esteemed Sukhoi Aviation Corporation, the Su-35S emerges as an enhanced variant of the original Su-35. 

Consider the Su-35S a “4++ generation” jet. Fundamentally, this suggests that our jet incorporates numerous advanced features typical of fifth-generation aircraft, without being fully designated as a member of the fifth-gen fighter category. These features include superior avionics, upgraded radar systems, and enhanced stealth capabilities. 

The Su-35S doesn’t merely inherit the Su-35 name, it reshapes its legacy in several crucial ways. The most noticeable among these? Its state-of-the-art radar, the Irbis-E electronically scanned array passive radar. Boasting a superior detection range and the ability to concurrently track a greater number of targets, it firmly surpasses the radar used in the original Su-35.

Under the hood

Let’s shift our focus under the hood now. The Su-35S gets its incredible power from a pair of AL-41F1S engines which produce more thrust, enabling it to supercruise. If you’re new here, supercruise is the ability to maintain supersonic flight without using afterburners – something that the original Su-35 lacks. 

Russia will unveil the export Sukhoi Su-57E fighter in India - Su-35 fighter jet
Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

Further improvements are evident in the Su-35S’s enhanced airframe which features a higher percentage of composite materials. This reduces weight and significantly improves durability. We can’t overlook the thrust vectoring nozzles that provide this jet with its remarkable maneuverability. 

Finally, here’s something to get your adrenaline pumping: The Su-35S has a more potent stance in electronic warfare and boasts a more advanced weapon suite compared to the original Su-35. It carries a wider range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and, let’s not forget, precision-guided bombs as well.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Iran buys 24 Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighters produced for Egypt
Photo credit: UAC

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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