The recent TB2 videos show multiple drone attacks against Russian equipment and air defenses, which paved the way for a Su-27 bomb strike.
As you may have noticed from the multiple reports published since the beginning of the invasion, the Bayraktar TB2 Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles of the Ukrainian forces are playing a starring role in the war, emerging as a real thorn in the side of the Russian forces and inflicting them heavy losses. In the last few days, footage has emerged online showing the drone in action over the famous Snake Island, inflicting numerous losses and seemingly paving the way for an airstrike by two Su-27 Flanker fighter jets.
The first video shows a TB2 taking out a Tor mobile short-range surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-15 “Gauntlet”, which was concealed near constructions by the island’s lighthouse. After being hit, the tracked vehicle started emitting smoke until it was engulfed in flames and exploded because of the ammo cook-off. Another TB2, which was flying about 100 km away, showed from a different perspective the attack and the subsequent explosion.
#Ukraine: A birdie flew past & gave us another angle of the Ukrainian TB-2 strike against a Russian Tor SAM system on Snake Island- another TB-2 was watching no less than 108km (67mi) away.
Seems the missiles went a little crazy after the strike.https://t.co/eft74Bgj2H pic.twitter.com/j33VydqQSg
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 6, 2022
A second Tor missile system was destroyed shortly before being unloaded at the island’s pier on the northern beach. The vehicle was being transported on a Project 11770 Serna class landing craft, which was also destroyed in the attack. The same video shows a building being attacked too, possibly near the lighthouse. The strikes on both Tor systems have been also confirmed by satellite imagery, which show dense black smoke rising from both locations.
A satellite image taken Saturday by @planet showed what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft against Snake Island’s northern beach. That corresponds to another Ukrainian military video released showing a drone strike hitting it, engulfing the vessel in flames. –@AP pic.twitter.com/9281Aw4VEK
— Jon Gambrell | جون (@jongambrellAP) May 7, 2022
The third video, perhaps the most interesting, shows two Ukrainian Su-27s performing a bomb strike against the buildings on the island. The Flankers can be seen flying at very low altitude while dispensing flares, hitting at least three targets during their pass, followed by secondary explosions. From the imagery, a large number of buildings seem to have been completely destroyed.
#Ukraine: A Ukrainian Bayraktar TB-2 drone strike struck and destroyed what appears to be Project 11770 Serna-class landing craft, again at Snake Island. pic.twitter.com/w7qrgzWaPo
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 7, 2022
While this might be an unusual mission for the Su-27, let’s not forget that its primary role is air superiority but it retains a secondary air-to-ground attack capability. Also, with the Russians still claiming that the Ukrainian Air Force does not exist anymore, the video shows that Ukrainian fighters are indeed still flying combat missions.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian Air force is still alive- seen here are two Ukrainian Su-27 striking Russian facilities on the famous Snake Island in the Black Sea, in remarkable footage filmed by a TB-2 drone.
As we can observe, there is serious damage. pic.twitter.com/ogN3gOU8uJ
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 7, 2022
Among the victims on Snake Island there is also a Russian Mi-8 transport helicopter. As we can see in the video, the helicopter was on the ground on the south side of the island with its engines running, disembarking some troops which were also caught in the blast radius of the MAM Micro Smart Munition launched by the TB2 UCAV.
#Ukraine: Ukrainian TB-2 drones continue to strike Russian forces on Snake Island.
This time, an Mi-8 helicopter was destroyed, just as troops were disembarking. pic.twitter.com/Y7MO4MiQRN
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 8, 2022
Even if the camera zooms away from the helicopter, showing the entire island, it is not possible to discern if the buildings were still intact or destroyed and thus understand if the helicopter was destroyed before of after the Su-27s bombed the island. The video was posted online after the bomb strike, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the helicopter was destroyed after the Flankers “visited” Snake Island.
It is not clear at this time if Ukrainian forces are planning to take back the island. According to the Russians, the attacks were followed by an air and maritime assault which they claim ended catastrophically for the Ukrainians, with multiple helicopters, Su-27s and Su-24 destroyed. However, it is worth noting that Ukrainian Su-24 Fencer bombers have not been sighted in flight since the very first days of the invasion, demonstrating once again that the count of the losses should not be taken as granted, unless there is compelling evidence.
Whatever, these videos (along with the accounts that TB2s allegedly helped decoy the Moskva’s defences) once again prove what a drone [we use the term “drone” every now and then in the article, although this weapon system is, as explained, a UCAV or, more in general, a remotely piloted vehicle] with a long-range FLIR and a wide array of weapons can do, in a “direct” or “indirect” way, in a modern conflict like the one in Ukraine.