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Sun, Feb 27, 2022

As Battle Marches on, Attrition Builds

Exact Losses Remain Murky While Battle Rages and Confusion Abounds

As the early events carried into the 3rd day of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, digital onlookers have been able to see a handful of poignant air combat vignettes between two rival air forces, with losses mounting on both sides.

Between the proliferation of MANPADS throughout the region and portable anti-air systems on both sides, recording civilians have been able to catch a surprising amount of the carnage from below. 

So far, armchair experts have made a rough tally of the the level of attrition on both sides by collecting pictures of the destroyed equipment. The estimate? Russia has lost 1 Su-30, 1 Su-25, and 1 An-26. Surprisingly, despite the quantity used in their assault, only 2 Ka-52 helicopters have been seen downed on the Russian side. Ukraine has lost at least 2 of its Su-27 fighters, as well as 1 An-26. 

One video showed the first downed Ka-52 helicopter, grounded by shrapnel that tore away left side of the fuselage. The helicopter lie abandoned, with its cockpit opened from the pilots' quick egress into the surroundings. Another video showed a Hokum B attack helicopter of unknown provenance being forced down after taking a small SAM impact from the city below. The Russian Antonov An-26 transport was confirmed to have crashed in the southern Voronezh region near the Ukrainian border. The ministry of defense reported the death of all those aboard during a "planned flight to transport military equipment." 

The fog of war has made actual losses a difficult prospect to assess on both Russian and Ukrainian sides, with multiple claims and counter endlessly parroted by both sides online. Estimating the damage is even more difficult due to a high level of similarity between both countries using identical fighters. Ukraine flies a combination of Su-27, MiG-29, and Su-25s scarcely different from the Russians. It's understandable, then, that when fuzzy, expedient footage illustrated a Sukhoi going up in a ball of flames over the capital, digital cheerleaders on both sides rushed to claim it to their team's tally. 

Of course, the numerical differential between the 2 fleets is quite pronounced, with the Russian Air Force having nearly 10 times the number of Ukraine's 28 Su-27 and 21 MiG-29s in its air force overall. Russia has 207 of the former and 251 of the latter, without counting more recent, advanced aircraft like the Su-35/35. In all, losses will be felt far more keenly on the Ukrainian side, only having 69 aircraft in the entirety of their fleet. Unfortunately, accurate assessments remain to be released, and until things are seen through, only observers patient enough to comb through the mountains of disinformation can even begin to develop an accurate picture of what's happening on the ground.

FMI: https://www.president.gov.ua/en

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