Russia May Use Antiquated An-2 Biplanes to ‘Draw Out’ Ukrainian Air Defenses

An-2 unmanned
File photo of an Antonov An-2 biplane, NATO reporting name "Colt", that could be used as drones over Kyiv. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Satellite Photos Show Cold War Era Biplanes on Seshcha Airbase Near Ukrainian Border.

In a bizarre move that seems more at home in a Tom Clancy novel, Russia may be preparing to use antiquated Antonov An-2 biplanes, flying unmanned or as drones by remote control, in an effort to draw out Ukrainian air defenses and establish an electronic “order of battle” in preparation for a push into Kyiv.

Satellite photos taken between Feb. 28 and leading up to the past 24 hours show a significant number of Antonov An-2 single-engine biplanes, NATO reporting name “Colt”, at Seshcha Air Base in Dubrovka, Russia. The base is located near the eastern Ukrainian border and was used as a Tu-16 strategic bomber base during the Cold War.

Intelligence analysis provided by Maxar, a private satellite imagery and intelligence think tank company, in their March Situation Report said that:

“Russia has deployed 42 An-2 “Colt” biplanes to Seshcha Airbase in Western Russia. Defense blogger Dylan Malyasov noted in a February 2022 article that Russia had been recently testing An-2 flight formations near the Ukrainian border. The An-2s have likely been converted to drones and could be used as decoys to simulate helicopter or UAV formations to draw out Ukraine’s air defenses. Malyasov note that Azerbaijan employed this strategy against Armenia with great success in the 2020 conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Electronic warfare aircraft have also been deployed to Seshcha, joing the combat aircraft deployed in mid-February.”

Satellite reconnaissance photo of Russian Antonov An-2 biplanes parked on a taxiway at Seshcha Airbase in Russia just across the Ukrainian border. (Photo: from MAXAR Satellite Imaging). In the box, the post by Defense Blogger Dylan Malyasov with a video supposedly showing testing of An-2 flight formations near the Ukrainian border.

The report went on to say that, “Additional combat aircraft have been deployed to Shatalovo Airbase in western Russia [just north of Seshcha- ed], which is showing a 3X increase in numbers since early February.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio also alluded to the possible conversion of An-2 to drones, citing the same numbers included in Maxar report.

The old but still capable Antonov An-2 biplane is well suited to this mission because of its large radar signature and low-speed flight characteristics combined with low cost (read: “expendable”). The An-2, as old as it is in both technology and appearance, is a cost-effective alternative to modern remotely piloted airframes like Russia’s recently tested Inokhodets-RU unmanned aerial vehicle or the older KRONSTADT ORION-E remotely piloted aircraft.

Actually, it’s not even clear how the An-2 drones would be operated by the Russians (provided that the conversion is confirmed): for instance, in the Nagorno-Karabakh theatre, the Azerbaijani biplanes were not really drones (i.e. remotely piloted), but purely unmanned, according to the reports: the pilot took off normally, pointed the aircraft at Armenian positions and then locked the aircraft’s controls using belts. After that the pilot bailed out to safety letting the unmanned plane fly directly towards Armenian units, forcing the enemy troops to open fire thus disclosing their positions.

Anyway, it looks like, as the next round in this dreadful war continues, large numbers of unmanned biplanes over three quarters of a century old might be used in the opening round of an offensive on Ukraine’s capital.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.