The number of Russian planes shot down in Ukraine since the start of the invasion in February 2022 has been a closely watched metric of the war’s progress. Ukraine has claimed to have shot down hundreds of Russian aircraft, while Russia has confirmed far fewer losses. Getting accurate numbers is challenging due to the fog of war, but estimates can be made based on verified photos and videos, official statements, and analysis from defense experts.
Ukraine has stated that its forces have shot down over 200 Russian planes as of November 2022. This includes all types of Russian aircraft, such as fighter jets, bombers, attack helicopters, transport planes, and drones. Specific numbers claimed by Ukraine include:
- Over 200 total Russian aircraft shot down
- 123 fighter jets shot down
- 12 bombers shot down
- 45 helicopters shot down
- 180 drones and cruise missiles shot down
Ukraine has incentives to inflate these numbers to boost morale and portray its air defenses as highly effective. Verifying all of Ukraine’s shootdown claims is difficult. But photos and videos seem to confirm that dozens of Russian planes and helicopters have been destroyed.
The Russian military has acknowledged far lower combat losses than claimed by Ukraine. Russia is likely undercounting due to propaganda reasons. But some approximate numbers include:
- 35 planes lost as of March 2022
- 49 drones shot down as of November 2022
In March 2022, a Russian general admitted losing 35 planes, likely including both helicopters and jets. Sporadic admissions of drone losses point to Russia being more willing to confirm unmanned aerial vehicle losses than manned aircraft.
Analysis from Experts
Because neither Ukrainian nor Russian claims can be fully verified, defense experts have tried making their own estimates based on photographic evidence, satellite imagery, and deductive analysis.
In April 2022, analyst Oryx did an inventory of visually confirmed Russian air losses, counting:
- 58 fixed-wing aircraft
- 31 helicopters
In November 2022, Jakub Janovsky analyzed Russia’s airborne losses based on photos, counting:
- 36 helicopters
- 10 transport planes
- 1 bomber
Experts emphasize these are minimum numbers based on photographic evidence. Total losses are likely higher.
Based on all available evidence, most analysts estimate Russia has lost between 50 to 150 manned aircraft so far in the war, including both jets and helicopters. Adding in drone losses could bring the total up to 200-300 aircraft downed. While a precise number remains elusive, it is clear Ukraine has taken a substantial toll on Russian air power.
Breakdown by Aircraft Type
Looking deeper at Russia’s air losses, it is possible to make estimates of how many of each type of aircraft have been shot down in Ukraine:
- Su-25 ground attack: 12-24 destroyed
- Su-34 strike fighter: 8-14 destroyed
- Su-30 air superiority: less than 10 destroyed
- MiG-29 air superiority: less than 10 destroyed
The Russian air force has lost at least a few dozen fighter jets, with the Su-25 and Su-34 bearing the brunt of the losses. The more advanced Su-30s and MiG-29s have fared slightly better thanks to their speed and maneuverability.
- Su-24: 2-5 destroyed
- Tu-22: 1-3 destroyed
Russia has lost only a handful of bombers, likely because they fly at higher altitudes than other planes. But the vaunted Tu-22M3 Backfires have been proven vulnerable to Ukrainian air defenses.
- Mi-24 attack helicopter: 15-25 destroyed
- Mi-8 transport helicopter: Over 10 destroyed
- Ka-52 attack helicopter: 6-10 destroyed
Low and slow helicopters have suffered heavy losses, with the Mi-24 Hind being the most common target. The more advanced Ka-52 was meant to lead Russia’s attack but has also been downed multiple times.
- An-26: 8-12 destroyed
- Il-76: 2-4 destroyed
Ukraine has succeeded in shooting down Russian transport planes carrying troops and cargo, including the large four-engine Il-76 Candid.
Where Are Russian Aircraft Being Shot Down?
Geographically, most Russian aerial losses have occurred over eastern and southern Ukraine, closer to the front lines. Fighter jets have tended to be shot down over the Donbas and near Kharkiv and Kherson. Helicopters and low-flying aircraft have been lost near hotspots like Izyum, Mariupol, and Popasna. Strategic bombers have been taken down after firing cruise missiles at western Ukraine from Russian airspace.
Manpads and short-range air defenses have accounted for many lower flying planes and helicopters. But Ukrainian S-300s and Buk-M1s have also taken their toll on jets at medium to high altitude. Russia’s failure to suppress Ukraine’s integrated air defense network has exposed its aircraft to significant risks.
When Have Russian Aircraft Been Shot Down?
The pace of Russian aerial losses has fluctuated over the course of the war:
- Heaviest losses: February – April 2022, during the failed assault on Kyiv
- Steadier attrition: May – October, in the Donbas grinding fight
- Increasing recently: September onward, as Ukraine goes on the offensive
The initial mobile phase of the war saw dense concentrations of Russian aircraft exposed to Ukraine’s defenses, resulting in heavy losses of around 30 planes and helicopters per month. The mid-year period saw lower but steady attrition as Russia relied less on aircraft. But Ukraine’s offensive push since September has seen aerial shootdowns pick up again to over 10 per month, including more drones.
Monthly Loss Estimates
This table summarizes estimated ranges of Russia’s monthly aerial losses over the course of the Ukraine conflict based on aggregated data.
Estimated Value of Losses
Replacing lost aircraft represents a major financial cost for Russia. Estimated replacement costs include:
- Su-25: $11 million per plane
- Su-34: $36 million per plane
- Su-30: $37 million per plane
- Mi-24: $10-15 million per helicopter
- Ka-52: $16 million per helicopter
With potentially over 100 manned aircraft lost, Russia may have lost up to $4 billion worth of planes and helicopters to Ukrainian fire. Additional losses in drones and cruise missiles add even more to replacement costs.
Impact on Russia’s Air Power
The losses suffered in Ukraine represent a major blow to Russia’s air force:
- Forced to pull advanced jets from service
- Reliance on old Soviet-era planes
- Conserving limited modern planes for defense
- Shift from aircraft to artillery and missiles
- Reduced capacity for close air support
To preserve its more capable planes, Russia has had to make heavy use of outdated aircraft in Ukraine like the Su-25, Su-24, and Mi-24. But even these legacy platforms have suffered considerable losses. As aircraft have proven highly vulnerable, Russia has transitioned its offensive strategy toward long-range missiles, artillery and rockets, with a reduced role for aerial attack.
Morale and Training Impacts
The loss of skilled pilots has also been a blow. It can take years to train capable aviators. Russia was already struggling with pilot shortages before the war. The combat losses – combined with sanctions limiting Russia’s access to microchips needed in advanced jets – will set back Russian military aviation for years to come.
Estimating Russian aircraft losses is challenging, but it appears Ukraine has likely downed between 100-200 Russian planes and helicopters since February 2022. This aligns with the most credible expert analyses. The actual number may grow as more photographic evidence emerges. While Russia continues flying missions, the costs of replacing lost aircraft and aircrew are unsustainable. Ukraine has succeeded in rapidly degrading Russia’s aerial attack capabilities, which will take Moscow years to rebuild after this war.