Having taken out multiple high-ranking commanders, generals, and prototype tanks, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have now handed the Russians its first combat loss of the Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E” multirole fighter jet open-source data collectors reveal online.

Reports of the Su-35 loss first appeared online on April 3rd. Various journalists, military analysts, and the Ukrainian Armed Forces themselves released images and footage of the burning fighter jet in a field.

According to initial reports, the Su-35 was shot down by either an unknown surface-to-air missile system (SAM) or another Ukrainian fighter jet near the city of Izyum. Izyum is about 75 miles from Kharkiv, another region that had been the subject of intensified bombings throughout the month-old war. Other reports claim that the Soviet-era S-125 air defense system operated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces downed the Su-35. However, this could not be independently verified. Details of how the aircraft was shot down are unclear as of writing. Reports have also surfaced that the pilot of the aircraft had ejected and survived.

Known Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov also personally went to the crash site and documented his findings through a Facebook post. He visited the site with 95th Brigade soldier Yuri Kochevenko.

The Ukrainian Military Center, a non-governmental organization, specializing in military and defense-related issues in Ukraine, reported that the 81st Airmobile Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces had captured the pilot. They said that the name of the pilot is Sergei Yermalov, who holds the rank of Major in the Russian Air Force and is part of the 159th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment based at Besovets airfield, Republic of Karelia.

Russian Major Sergey Yermalov, pilot of the downed Su-35 fighter jet (Yuri Butusov Facebook Page). Source: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=7485416351498596&set=a.2472040399502908
Russian Major Sergey Yermalov, pilot of the downed Su-35 fighter jet (Yuri Butusov Facebook Page)

According to the pilot himself, Yermalov had flown 15 combat sorties during the invasion of Ukraine. His last mission involved him trying to locate Ukrainian air defense units(which he apparently did).  Analysts confirmed that the pilot was trying to eliminate Ukrainian air defense systems like the Russian Kh-31 anti-radiation missile visible in the footage that surfaced online.

The pilot also revealed that he made 40 combat sorties while serving in Syria.

Butusov reported the arrest of the pilot, whose name was spelled “Sergey Ermalov” and described as an “air terrorist.” According to him, the pilot left the site of the plane crash and hid. The pilot was found 6 miles from the site through an organized search by the 24th Brigade, 81st Brigade, and the local territorial defense forces. Which is a pretty impressive amount of ground to cover in a short period of time.

As per a report by Janes, the aircraft, which is described as the premier operational combat aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), could be identified from the photos as it was seen to be a single-seat Flanker variant without canards. It was also said to be equipped with combination missile rails and wingtip-mounted electronic countermeasures systems.

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Furthermore, they also reported that the aircraft was operated by the 790th Fighter Aviation Regiment from Khotilovo, the 159th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment from Besovets, the 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment from Komsomolsk-Dzemgi, and the 22nd Fighter Aviation Regiment from Uglovoe.

The pilot was said to be from the 159th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment based at Besovets, thus confirming that the reported information might be factual.

In an apparent attempt to boost morale, the Ukrainian Air Force said, “It’s not even a Su-35 plane is on fire, it’s the whole Russian empire,” through a Facebook post, seeing that the wreckage was completely engulfed in flames.

Sukhoi Su-35 at MAKS 2011 (Dmitry Avdeev, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sukhoi_Su-35_MAKS%272011_Avdeev_(cropped).jpg
Sukhoi Su-35 at MAKS 2011 (Dmitry Avdeev, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Su-35 Flanker-E is touted as Russia’s best dogfighter in modern air combat, which was developed from the Su-27. Its latest version is the Su-35BM, which is reported to have high maneuverability (+9g) and a high angle of attack, all powered by two Sturn/UFA AL-31F 117S turbofan engines each producing some 86.3kN of thrust. It has a maximum speed of 1485 miles per hour, and a maximum altitude of 59,055 feet, with a maximum range of 2609 miles.

The aircraft has a length of 21.9m, a wingspan of 15.3m, and a height of 5.9m, and can carry a maximum payload of 17,637 pounds. It is also reported to carry Vympel R-27 air-to-air missiles, the Vympel radar-guided medium-range R-77 missiles, and the Vympel short-range infrared-guided R-73E. It can also carry air-to-surface missiles such as the Molniya Kh-29 tactical missiles, the Kh-31P, and long-range Kh-58UShE anti-radiation missiles. For its anti-ship missiles, it can utilize the Kh-31A, Kh-59MK, Kalibr missiles, and the NPO Mashinostroenia heavy long-range Yakhont missile.

Lastly, it also utilizes thrust vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, a co-operative radar jamming system, laser warner and chaff and flare dispenser, X-band multimode phased array Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, and an infrared search and track fire control system, OLS-35 IRST.

The loss of one of its premier fighter jets will be a blow to Russian morale and prestige as well as an intelligence boon for NATO and the US as this was Russia’s most advanced fighter, flown by an experienced pilot with numerous combat missions that was never the less brought down by a less than state of the art Ukrainian air defense missile.

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