A sad day for Ukrainians and fighter pilots around the world, Ukrainian Colonel Oleksandr Oksanchenko, known as one of the best fighter pilots in the world, was reportedly killed in an air battle during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Reports are that is plane was hit by a ground launched surface to air missile

A highly skilled fighter pilot known as the “Grey Wolf,” Oksanchenko gained international fame and admirers as a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker display pilot from 2013 to 2018 with the Ukrainian 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade situated from Myrhorod Air Base located in Poltava Oblast. According to 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade’s official Facebook page, the legendary fighter pilot had participated in various European air shows such as the Czech International Air Fest, Royal International Air Tattoo, and the Slovak International Air Fest (SIAF). These shows are where he gained a following and a fanbase from aviation enthusiasts throughout his career.

He received the As The Crow Flies Trophy for the best overall flying demonstration during the Royal International Air Tattoo 2017, where he flew a Sukhoi Su-27P1M. According to their official website, Oksanchenko was the first Ukrainian Flanker that had taken part in RIAT in 18 years.

His death had been announced by the Ukrainian 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade’s official Facebook page, commemorating the pilot stating that Oksanchenko was “admired by aviators from all over the world,” as his skills were not just for show or for the beauty of flying a fighter jet, but also elements that can be used in a real dog fight. With over 2,000 flight hours, Oksanchenko captured the eyes of his fellow pilots and those who aspired to be part of the Air Force from everywhere in the globe.

The non-profit organization European Airshows also expressed their grief and sadness upon hearing the news of the loss. “Col. Oksanchenko was not only a very experienced pilot who won a number of awards for the best flying display at many events across Europe, but he was also a true fan of airshows,” they said in a statement.

Oksanchenko, who already retired from active service, joined the Ukrainian reserves in 2018. He also was said to volunteer as a coach to the Ukrainian Flanker Solo Display Team for the 2019 display season. Upon catching wind of the Russian invasion in early February, he came out of retirement and suited up for the Ukrainian Air Force once more so he could defend his country.

He was said to be shot down over Kyiv by a Russian S-400 Triumph Air Defense Missile System. As of this time, no information about the type of aircraft he was flying at the time is known, but it can be presumed it was the aircraft he knew best the Sukhoi Su-27P1M Flanker.

Colonel Oleksandr “Grey Wolf” Oksanchenko, a legendary Ukrainian Air Force Flanker air show display pilot, dies after being shot down by a Russian S-400 Triumph Air Defense Missile System (Oliver Dom/European Airshows/Illia Ponomarenko(@IAPonomarenko)/Twitter)

According to Interfax Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded the Grey Wolf with the title “Hero of Ukraine” along with 12 other servicemen who died in battle. Six servicemen, including Oksanchenko, were awarded the high rank with the Order of the Golden Star.

Other awardees included fallen Ukrainian servicemen Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Vahorovsky, Major Dmytro Kolomiets, Lieutenant Colonel Hennadiy Matuliak, Lieutenant Vitaliy Movchan, Senior Lieutenant Viacheslav Radionov, Senior Lieutenant Andriy Gerus, Brigadier General Dmytro Krasylnykov, Lieutenant Colonel Andriy Kruhlov, Colonel Oleksandr Mostovy, Lieutenant General Yuriy Sodol, and Medical Colonel Eduard Khoroshun.

“Sincere condolences to all those who lost relatives and friends in this war. Eternal memory to those who died. Eternal glory to everyone who defends our freedom! Before addressing you, I signed a decree to grant the title of Hero of Ukraine to 12 [of] our defenders,” said Zelensky in a video message.

His death was further confirmed by The Kyiv Independent defense reporter Illia Ponomarenko through a tweet:

While mythical tales of the so-called “Ghost of Kyiv” flood the media, the Grey Wolf was the real thing.  Colonel Oksanchenko was 53 years old.

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