New Footage Claims To Show The Drone Attack On The Russian A-50U Aircraft In Belarus

Screenshot from the footage about to land on the Russian A-50 SATCOM antenna dome.

Eventually, another clip has been released, supposedly showing the attack on the Mainstay radar jet.

As reported yesterday, on Feb. 26, 2023, the Belarusian partisan group, BYPOL, claimed a Russian Beriev A-50U Mainstay airborne early warning & control aircraft had been damaged in a drone attack at Machulishchy Airbase, Belarus, near Minsk. Subsequent the high-rez satellite images released by Maxar in the following days showed the A-50U pretty much intact on the apron of the Belarusian air base. As explained, while they seemed to rule out heavy damage was inflicted to the aircraft, the imagery did not prove the valuable “flying radar” hadn’t be damaged in some way by the attack.

A clip BYPOL released on Mar. 2, showed a small quadcopter drone approaching the A-50U, landing on the radar dome of the aircraft and taking off again without any sign of explosion: in other words, the video just exposed a security gap and the inability of the local defenses to detect and counter a kamikaze drone, but did not in fact corroborate the hypothesis of an actual attack.

Interestingly, earlier today, yet another footage has been released. You can see the small drone as it is launched from a place apparently located just outside the perimeter fence of the airport, gets close to the radar jet, overflies the front section of the aircraft (likely looking for a convenient landing spot) and eventually lands on the SATCOM antenna of the Mainstay.

At this point, the video feed ends, suggesting a detonation was triggered making the stream unavailable when the drone touched down. The breaking in the video link caused by an explosion would fit with the claims of the BYPOL group but we can’t be sure this is exactly what we are seeing in the clip.

Therefore, this latest video, that appears to be genuine, *might* prove a drone attack was carried out. Still, it’s not clear why BYPOL did not release it earlier, but decided to publish the other one that just showed a landing (or failed attempt to detonate the drone after landing on the radar dish) and subsequent return.

The extent of the eventual damage caused to the aircraft, if any, can’t be assessed with the currently available images, although it’s probably limited or quickly repairable. Let’s not forget that the targeted A-50 allegedly returned to flight some four days after the attack, as claimed by the Belarusian MOD. Belarus authorities also released some undated footage including a clip of the aircraft taxiing at Machulishchy Airbase suggesting (a return to) normal ops.

Summing up, based on the available information we could speculate the following:

  1. a drone attack may have been carried out as claimed by BYPOL. The attack would be shown in the video released on Mar. 3.
  2. the (possible) drone attack was probably preceded by a failed attempt or a reconnaissance mission (shown in first video, published on Mar. 2.)
  3. the satellite imagery published Maxar may show some limited damage in the SATCOM antenna area that could be consistent with a small explosion.
  4. The aircraft may have suffered limited damage and could have been repaired and returned to active service as affirmed by the Belarusian MOD.

Again, it’s just a guess and with so many fuzzy details the video is still inconclusive in providing evidence that an actual attack was carried out.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.