The Last Moments of A Russian Helicopter Are Illustrative
This screencap shows the last moments of a Russian Mi-8 helicopter and its crew. Some 8 months into the war, pictures like these are all too familiar, a lone Russian helicopter flying low over the trees gets deleted by a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile and crashes to the ground in a fireball.
So far, Russia has lost over 200 helicopters according to conservative estimates, almost all of them in the circumstance you see above, shot down by fire from the ground at low altitude. And these seem destined to lose in even most in the coming months.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture does speak to us, but I’ll try to keep it well under a thousand words.
The picture does tell us that the average Russian is capable of incredible bravery to the point of being suicidal and foolhardy. It’s not as if the threat posed by MANPAD missiles is new, the Russians have seen scores of helicopters brought down by these missiles and every single Russian pilot sent aloft in a helicopter must know that there is a Stinger missile out there with his name written on it in Cyrillic letters and coming with express delivery. Yet they still go up anyway.
It’s pretty amazing.
The picture also tells us that the Russia air force in incapable of learning from its mistakes. Missiles like the Stinger can be effectively countered by unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with laser jammers and ground-based systems that use microwaves and high-energy lasers to deflect or destroy an inbound missile. Helicopters can also employ flares to decoy missiles like the Stinger that home on the heat of the helicopter’s engine exhaust.
They could also send out more than one helicopter at a time. If a squad of Ukrainian troops have two Stingers and they encounter a flight of four helicopters comprised of two Mi-8s and two Ka-52 Aligator attack helicopters, the shoot/don’t shoot equation changes a bit. If the Ukrainians do manage to hit two of the helicopters they will be leaving a smoke trail from those missiles right back to their position that the other two helicopters can use to hose them down with rocket and cannon fire.
That would probably be enough to dissuade the Ukrainian troops from popping their two Stingers.
It would seem the Russians are stubbornly incapable of learning anything useful from their bad tactical decisions and keep sending out individual helicopters to get wrecked by MANPADS. The Ukrainians are fortunate that the Russian air force they are fighting is so stubborn about doing wrong things over and over.
Clear footage of the downing of a Russian Mi-8 helicopter earlier today in Donetsk Oblast.
The helicopter was reportedly operated by pilots from Wagner PMC.#Russia #Ukraine https://t.co/RhGEU7TrqP pic.twitter.com/HMrZBgTgVD
— BlueSauron👁️ (@Blue_Sauron) October 31, 2022
Russia’s Missile Problems Shows it Has “Clay Feet”
I worked as a source with Newsweek yesterday on a story they are working on regarding the availability and cost of Russian cruise missiles recently expended on Ukrainian cities.
As I told Newsweek, Ukraine estimates that Russia began the conflict with about 1850 cruise missiles of all types, including 900 Iskanders, 500 sea-launched Kalibres, and a similar number of the air-launched Kh-101/555 version. This inventory has been depleted to about 620 of all types. Most have been expended, but some have also been destroyed by Ukrainian attacks behind the lines inside Russia itself.