Ukraine Shot Down its Own Su-27 Fighter Over Kiev: Fifth Flanker Loss in Four Years - Reports

The Ukrainian air force reportedly shot down one of its own Su-27 fighters on the night of of February 24, while the aircraft was performing an air patrol mission over Kiev. The aircraft was misidentified as a Russian fighter, as both countries notably deploy Su-27s while more advanced Su-27-derived aircraft such as the Su-34 and Su-35 make up the large majority of the Russian fighter fleet. This is far from the only report of friendly fire in the conflict, with unconfirmed reports indicating Ukrainian aircraft accidentally bombarded civilian areas when attempting to engage a Russian low-flying helicopter. The loss of a Su-27 comes follows the flight of another fighter of the same class to Romania on the same day, with Ukrainian air defence sites and aircraft being made priority targets by Russian units and widely speculated to have declining morale. The Ukrainian Air Force also lost two of its fourteen Su-24M strike fighters in the opening hours of the conflict when they reportedly attempted to strike Russian backed separatist targets near the Russian border. Ukrainian Su-27s have been prone to a high number of accidents, with two crashing in October and December 2018 one of which killed an American co-pilot while a third crashed into a road sign while landing in 2020 taking it out of commission. Previously a Ukrainian Su-27 crash in 2002 killed 77 civilians.

The Su-27s in the Ukrainian Air Force date back to the 1980s, and have seen few improvements made to their performances since with their sensors, missiles and electronic warfare countermeasures in particular seen to be far out of date compared to frontline Russian fighters such as the Su-30SM and Su-35. The Su-27 previously only saw air to air combat in East Africa in 1998, and it remains uncertain whether they have been involved in any air to air engagements since Russia began its campaign in Ukraine on February 24. Clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces could see the fighters in their first and perhaps their last ever air to air engagements should they go head to head with Russian fighters, although the technological gap between them of approximately 30 years means the results of such engagements are expected to be overwhelmingly one sided. The small number of fighters Ukraine has operational means that Su-27s may be relegated to patrolling over the capital and the country’s western regions rather than contesting Russian air superiority in the country's eastern and central regions.

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