Crashes behind the front lines hint at a looming problem for isolated Russia's Air Force

Destroyed Russian Su-25 jet crash on display in Kyiv Ukraine
Destroyed Russian Su-25 jet crash on display in Kyiv Ukraine  
  • Russia lost several combat aircraft to crashes in the final months of 2022.

  • Some of those losses reflect the toll the war in Ukraine has taken on Russia's air force.

  • Others, which involved jets not being used in the war, may reflect the toll of Western sanctions.

Militaries expect to lose aircraft in combat, and even in peacetime there will be accidents when operating fast, complex jets, but a series of crashes by Russian combat jets may indicate that Western sanctions are cutting into Moscow's ability to maintain its warplanes.

"Sanctions placed on Russia by the West could well be affecting Russia's ability to manufacture and maintain parts needed to keep aircraft safe," Michael Bohnert, an engineer and analyst at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank, wrote in a November essay.

Bohnert pointed to at least six crashes between September and late November.

Accidents involving older Su-25 ground-attack aircraft, a newer Su-34 ground-attack aircraft that crashed into an apartment building in Russia, and a MiG-31 fighter that crashed on takeoff are not that surprising. Those models have flown extensively in combat over Ukraine, so the incidents may reflect the wear and tear on them.

Russian Su-34 jet crash Yeysk
Russian Su-34 jet crash Yeysk  

However, two crashes involved planes that weren't being used in Ukraine. In mid-October, an Su-34 crashed into an apartment building in the city of Yeysk. A week later, an Su-30 fighter crashed into a residential building in Siberia.

The initial investigation of the Su-34 crash "pointed to a technical malfunction of the aircraft," according to Russian authorities.

"What's interesting is that even aircraft not involved in the Russian invasion are crashing," Bohnert wrote of the October crashes. "These aircraft were being used as training platforms, and their combat counterparts have limited use in the current war."

Crashes of multiple aircraft types, involving jets that have and have not seen combat, suggests a pattern. "While mechanical failures are expected in aircraft over time, a rapid increase in fleetwide mechanical failures may indicate that something fundamental has changed," Bohnert wrote.

The question is what has changed in Russian aircraft reliability and maintenance? Specifically, are Western sanctions that have deprived Russian aviation of imported parts to blame? Russian airlines are already cannibalizing jetliners for spare parts that sanctions have made unavailable.

At the same time, there are indications that Russia is suffering from a lack of qualified military pilots as well as sloppy ground crews.

Russian Su-24 aircraft Hamaimim Syria
Russian Su-24 aircraft Hamaimim Syria  

Bohnert sees three possible causes for the crashes: a lack of skilled mechanics, not enough third-party companies to manufacture or repair aviation parts, or a lack of tools and materials to make or fix these parts.

However, Bohnert doesn't see any of these explanations as sufficient by themselves. For example, while Western experts cite sloppy maintenance practices such as ground crews failing to remove covers from sensors before takeoff, Bohnert thinks a lack of competent mechanics isn't likely.

"While Russian airbases have been attacked, damage has not been extensive and maintainers probably would not have been transferred to forward combat units," he wrote.

Mobilization has affected small- and medium-sized companies that make aviation parts, but the crashes began before Putin ordered the mobilization on September 21. That leaves a shortage of manufacturing tools and raw materials because of Western sanctions.

This still leaves the problem of precisely attributing the reasons for the crashes. "We have seen continued and possibly increasing mechanical failures with Russian military and civilian aircraft," Bohnert told Insider. "It has been difficult to ascertain why."

Russian military plane crash Irkutsk
Russian military plane crash Irkutsk  

For example, measuring the impact of mobilization on Russian manufacturing is difficult, as is determining how many aircraft parts Russia is covertly importing. Details on transshipments into Russia may appear in trade flow reports or company annual reports, but this information may take months or even years to surface.

In the end, Russian aircraft maintenance may face a mix of problems. "The likely causes of the failures remain some combination of personnel, tooling, and increased demand for domestic production limiting the supply and/or the quality of spare parts," Bohnert said.

As the war in Ukraine continues, combat will wear out aircraft and trained pilots. Pre-war stocks of spare parts will be depleted, especially of imported components and materials.

Substitutions may help a bit: Iran, for example, has been resourceful in either secretly acquiring or producing parts for its US-made 1970s-era F-14 and F-4 fighters or in cannibalizing parts from some planes to keep others flying. But that's not a reliable way to maintain an air force.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He holds a master's in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • 토토사이트
    (2023-01-19 04:58:32Z)

    토토사이트 먹튀검증업체는 뱃사공이 가장 유명하며 우수한 안전놀이터를 지속적으로 추천합니다. 사용자의 신뢰를 바탕으로 성장하는 사설토토 메이저놀이터는 가장 믿을 수 있는 토토사이트입니다. 토토 유저라면 전문적인 스포츠토토사이트 추천 리스트를 참고하세요.

  • 출장안마
    (2023-01-19 05:43:43Z)

    Your site is truly cool and this is an extraordinary moving article.

  • guess the car logo
    (2023-01-19 08:59:58Z)

    Once, solving these kinds of issues were the toughest task for everyone but now it is not because of this incredible website! I loved the way it works and the results are wonderful too! Checkout them.

  • 바로고
    (2023-01-22 11:18:47Z)

    I felt very happy while reading this site. This was really very informative site for me. I really liked it.

  • florarie florisis
    (2023-02-21 06:31:23Z)

    A debt of gratitude is in order for the blog entry amigo! Keep them coming...

  • Allomycle
    (2023-02-23 01:52:07Z)

    For more tips on improving nutrition and loss of appetite including recipes, visit the National Cancer Institute website buying cialis online safely MEPHAMYCIN SUSPENSION 200MG 5ML MEPHA PHARMA AG SWITZERLAND

  • 토토사이트
    (2023-02-25 10:50:34Z)

    Of course, there must be a difference already, as the online gambling game has a simple, easy and fun process.

  • hualien hotel
    (2023-03-11 09:53:51Z)

    Here is very much want the most impressive sparkle terrific. Each one of these moderate areas are meant by means of selection of makeup foundation curiosity. I love individuals much.

  • 소액결제현금화
    (2023-03-12 07:33:04Z)

    Very nice article, I enjoyed reading your post, very nice share, I want to twit this to my followers. Thanks!.

  • 카지노사이트
    (2023-03-13 09:39:26Z)

    Most helpful human beings toasts should amuse and present give about the couple. Beginner audio systems previous to obnoxious throngs would be wise to remember often the valuable signal using grow to be, which is to be an individual’s home. best man speech examples

  • 인스타 팔로워 늘리기
    (2023-03-13 12:04:50Z)

    Great work It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing

  • 블로그체험단
    (2023-03-19 10:32:41Z)

    Wow! Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It's so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also.


Top News: Latin America