Moscow Court officially recognizes Ukraine’s downing of A-50

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To date, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation hasn’t officially confirmed that the A-50 early warning aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS or RuAF] was downed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on February 23 this year. Interestingly, a new ruling from a Moscow court hints otherwise. 

Photo credit: Mil.ru / Wikipedia

The Moscow court has issued an arrest warrant for Ukrainian Colonel Mykola Dzyaman, the commander of the Ukrainian 138th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, accusing him of shooting down the A-50 on that fateful day. Back then, the Russian Federation insisted that the A-50 and its ten-member crew were downed by friendly fire.

This development is significant for both the Russian and Ukrainian sides in the conflict. Officially, Russian officers had claimed that their own air defense system mistakenly hit the A-50. Many Western commentators and experts have echoed these Russian claims, adding to the ongoing debate. 

Photo credit: VKS

This has sparked numerous concerns regarding the capability of Russian air defense systems to accurately detect their aircraft in radar fields—essentially, their own version of the “friend-foe” identification system. Conversely, if it’s established that an American Patriot air defense system played a role in downing the A-50, it would serve as substantial proof of the Patriot’s effectiveness in targeting such aerial threats. 

The Beriev A-50, or “Mainstay” as it’s known by NATO, is a Russian early warning and control [AEW&C] aircraft. Developed by the Beriev Aircraft Company, it’s based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft. The A-50’s purpose is to detect, track, and identify aerial targets, offering command and control to friendly forces during both offensive and defensive operations. 

A standout feature of the Beriev A-50 is its large, rotodome-mounted radar system, which provides a full 360-degree rotation. This Shmel radar can spot fighter-jet-sized targets up to 230 kilometers [appr. 143 miles] away, and even further for larger aircraft. Powered by four Soloviev D-30KP turbofan engines, the A-50 reaches a top speed of about 800 kilometers per hour [approximately 497 miles per hour] and boasts a range of roughly 7,500 kilometers [approximately 4,660 miles] without needing to refuel. 

Photo credit: Twitter

The radar capabilities of the A-50 are pivotal to its function as an Airborne Early Warning and Control [AEW&C] platform. With its Shmel radar, this aircraft can track 50-60 targets simultaneously, guiding multiple interceptors towards them. This radar system significantly enhances situational awareness and provides early warning of incoming threats, making it indispensable for air defense operations. Additionally, it’s versatile enough to detect and track ground targets, proving effective in a variety of combat scenarios. 

In the realm of air control during ground attacks, the Beriev A-50 proves invaluable by offering real-time data and coordination to ground attack aircraft. By identifying and tracking enemy ground units and facilities, it relays crucial information to friendly aircraft, enabling more precise and effective strikes. 

The A-50 is a highly valuable asset for the Russian military, particularly in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. Many military experts argue that it is one of the most critical losses the Russian Aerospace Forces have faced since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. However, Russia’s early detection capabilities remain robust despite the loss of two A-50s. They possess more aircraft of this type and are continually working to enhance their capabilities in this area. 

Photo credit: Twitter

Recently, footage of Russia’s cutting-edge A-100 Premier long-range radar detection and control aircraft during its test flights has emerged online. Reports suggest that an experimental A-100 Premier AWACS prototype is on the verge of completing its rigorous testing phases.

These reports highlight that the prototype is nearing the final stages of comprehensive testing of its airborne long-range radar detection system under near-combat conditions. Once these tests are successfully concluded, serial production is anticipated to follow swiftly. 

The A-100 Premier, featuring an advanced onboard radar known as “Premier”, is built on the upgraded Il-76MD-90A platform. Developed in 2014 by specialists from the Taganrog Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex named after Beriev, in collaboration with the NGO “Vega-M”, which is part of the state corporation “Ruselectronics”, this aircraft is intended to eventually phase out the older A-50 series AWACS aircraft.

Photo credit: Twitter

The A-100 active phased array radar system is a highly advanced piece of technology capable of conducting radio-electronic reconnaissance. It comes equipped with terminals that enable it to share information with Russian fighter jets and anti-aircraft missile systems through secure communication channels. This capability is essential for accurately targeting air, ground, and surface threats. 

Beyond its radar functions, the A-100 flying radar can also gather data from space satellites and manage drone operations, forwarding this intelligence to ground and air weapon systems. It integrates effortlessly with ground intelligence assets like long-range radar, significantly enhancing situational awareness.

The A-100 Premier is engineered to function as a versatile airborne command center, capable of detecting and tracking up to 350 air, sea, and ground targets simultaneously at distances up to 650 km.

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