According to the Ukrainian military, the Fulcrum downed the Flanker derivative over Kherson region earlier today.
“Today, May 27, around 14.00 o’clock a MiG-29 fighter of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shot down a Russian fighter Su-35, which posed a threat to Ukrainian aircraft in the sky of Kherson region”. This is the very short text that has been released few hours ago on Telegram and other social networks by the Ukrainian Air Force.
No additional detail about the aerial engagement in the region just north of Crimea has been provided yet; nor have any images of clips showing the eventual wreckage of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Su-35 Flanker-E have emerged on social media to verify the claims.
If confirmed, this would be the second Su-35S the Russians have lost in the air war over Ukraine: the first Su-35S Flanker-E crashed near Izium, in eastern Ukraine, some 120 kilometers to the southeast of Kharkiv, on April 3, 2022. According to the Ukrainian sources, that Su-35S was also shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses, although this couldn’t be verified. Back then, the remains of a Kh-31 anti-radiation missile (ARM) could also be IDed among the remains of the Flanker, suggesting the aircraft might have been tasked with a SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) mission, to disable the enemy ground-based air defense systems radars.
— Necro Mancer (@666_mancer) April 3, 2022
According to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia has lost a total of 206 combat aircraft, 170 helicopters, 503 UAVs, and 115 cruise missiles in the skies over Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Independent sources have been able to verify the loss or damage of 27 aircraft and 43 helicopters, so far.
On the other side, Russian MOD’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov has recently said that “In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, 178 aircraft, 125 helicopters, 995 unmanned aerial vehicles, 320 air defense systems, 3,243 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 425 multiple rocket launchers, 1,658 field artillery and mortar guns, as well as 3,124 units of special military vehicles have been destroyed”.
The Su-35S “Flanker E” is the 4++ generation variant of the Su-27 Flanker aircraft.
The multirole aircraft features thrust-vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track), the Khibiny radar jamming system along with the ability to use some interesting weapons, including the ultra-long range R-37M air-to-air missile that could target HVAA (High Value Air Assets) such as AWACS and tanker aircraft.
Although more modern and better equipped than the Ukrainian Fulcrums, a Su-35S can still find in one or more MiG-29s a pretty challenging opponent and the fact that a Flanker was allegedly shot down by a Ukrainian Air Force Fulcrum is not surprising at all: the downing of an opponent in a dogfight is almost never a matter of technology/capability of the aircraft but a mix of training, capabilities, external support, tactics and, sometimes, luck. Moreover, also thanks to the support received in the last decade from the California Air National Guard through the State Partnership Program (SPP), Ukrainian AF has already proved to be well prepared and able to survive and operate even if the Russian Air Force outnumbers the Ukrainians almost 10 to 1, and to to “counter punch” the Russians every now and then.
Anyway, let’s see if additional details about this alleged air-to-air kill emerge.