New Footage Shows One Fifth of Ukraine’s MiG-29 Fleet Destroyed in One Russian Missile Strike

Within 48 hours of the initiation of a Russian military campaign in neighbouring Ukraine, footage emerged of a Ukrainian airfield showing six MiG-29 fighters seriously damaged by a single Russian missile strike. 

The missile used was reportedly a Russian Navy 3M14 Kalibr, which is deployed by a wide range of ships from light Buyan-M Class corvettes to 24,000 ton Borei Class nuclear powered attack submarines. It was specified at the beginning of operations that Ukrainian aircraft and air defence sites would be made priority targets, with footage of destroyed MiG-29s appearing to be the first sign of the effectiveness of such a campaign. 

The loss of six MiG-29s represents a very considerable blow to Ukrainian air power, with the country fielding approximately 30 MiG-29s in total meaning those destroyed from one missile strike represent one fifth of the fleet. The Ukrainian Air Force also fields a similar number of heavier and more capable Su-27 fighters, although with one lost to friendly fire, another fleeing to neighbouring Romania, and significant further losses reported but unconfirmed in the first 24 hours, the fleet’s ability to operate beyond basic small patrols of major cities remains highly limited. 

The Su-27 notably requires more maintenance and longer runways than the MiG-29 to operate, which leaves it more vulnerable in a conflict where Ukraine’s airfields are being targeted with impunity.

The MiG-29A which Ukraine relies on dates back to 1982 in its service, and despite the airframe’s high flight performance its sensors, armaments and avionics are all considered effectively obsolete particularly against modern Russian fighters. 

Ukraine was estimated to have inherited 260 MiG-29s and Su-27s when the USSR collapsed, although its inability to afford their operational costs meant three quarters of this fleet would be retired. Russia also deploys modernised MiG-29 variants in small numbers, namely the navy’s MiG-29K jets and a single unit of MiG-29SMT jets in the air force. These are not thought to have participated in operations in Ukraine. 

With Russia also having destroyed Ukraine’s ground based air defence sites built around the S-300PS/PT and BuK-M1 systems within 2-3 hours of the beginning of the campaign, the primary threat to Russian aircraft is posed by light handheld surface to air missile launchers - most notably the Stinger supplied by the United States. 

The fact that these can be dispersed among infantry, and do not emit radio signatures making them difficult to detect, make them more difficult to neutralise. The threat such systems pose, however, remains more limited due to their very short ranges, inability to engage high altitude targets and wide range of countermeasures available to neutralise infrared guidance. 

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