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.