How much aircraft has Russia lost in Ukraine?

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, there has been much speculation about the losses suffered by the Russian military in terms of personnel, tanks, and aircraft. While exact numbers are difficult to verify, various estimates indicate that Russia has lost a significant number of aircraft during nearly 10 months of fighting against Ukrainian forces.

In the opening months of the war, photos and videos emerged showing the wreckage of Russian fighter jets, helicopters, and other aircraft that had been shot down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons or fighter planes. As the conflict has dragged on, the attrition of Russian aircraft has continued.

Key Questions

This article will attempt to answer the following key questions regarding Russian aircraft losses in the Ukraine war:

– How many fixed-wing aircraft has Russia lost?
– How many helicopters has Russia lost?
– What types of aircraft have been lost?
– What are the main causes behind Russian aerial losses?
– How do Russian aircraft losses compare to estimates of Ukraine’s aircraft losses?
– How have aircraft losses impacted Russia’s ability to achieve air superiority?

By examining available estimates and reports, we can piece together an understanding of the damage inflicted on the Russian Aerospace Forces during the Ukraine conflict. Estimating exact losses is difficult due to the fog of war, but the general picture that emerges is one of high attrition for Russian aviation assets.

Estimates of Russia’s Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses

In the first months of the war, Ukrainian officials claimed very high numbers of Russian aircraft shot down, with estimates topping more than 200 planes by mid-April 2022. These early claims were likely inflated, as Russia had not deployed its full air force contingent. More conservative tallies have put Russia’s fixed-wing aircraft losses in the range of dozens of planes.

According to the Oryx blog, which tracks visually confirmed Russian equipment losses, Russia has verifiably lost at least 23 fixed-wing aircraft in Ukraine as of November 2022. This includes 12 Su-34 fighter-bombers, 5 Su-30 fighters, 4 Su-25 ground attack aircraft, and 2 Il-76 transport planes.

Other counts have provided higher but still relatively modest estimates for Russia’s airpower losses. The Kyiv Independent reported in August that Russia had lost 63 aircraft. In October, Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov stated that Ukrainian forces had shot down 278 Russian aircraft.

Factoring in the likelihood of exaggeration in Ukrainian claims, most analysts believe Russia has probably lost between 50-100 fixed wing aircraft so far. This aligns with reports in March that Russia had lost some 50 planes. While not catastrophic, these losses are substantial for Russia’s air force. They also exceed Russian fixed-wing losses from its air campaign in Syria.

Breakdown of Estimated Russian Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses

Based on available information, a reasonable estimate is that Russia has lost approximately:

– 35-50 Su-34 fighter-bombers
– 10-15 Su-30 fighters
– 10-15 Su-25 close air support aircraft
– 5-10 MiG-29 fighters
– 5-10 Su-24 bomber
– 5-10 transport aircraft and surveillance planes

This would put total fixed-wing aircraft losses at around 70-100 jets and planes of various types. These losses represent a meaningful attrition of Russia’s fleet of approximately 1,500 military aircraft. The rate of losses may not be sustainable for Russia if it continues over time.

Estimates of Russia’s Helicopter Losses

Helicopters have proven vulnerable for Russian forces in Ukraine. Low flying helicopters have fallen prey to shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles like the Stinger provided by Western nations.

According to Oryx blog’s visually confirmed tally, Russia has lost at least 23 helicopters in the Ukraine war so far. This includes:

– 8 Ka-52 attack helicopters
– 6 Mi-28 attack helicopters
– 3 Mi-35 attack helicopters
– 3 transport helicopters
– 3 Ka-29 naval helicopters

Other estimates have put Russia’s overall helicopter losses at more than twice that number. In May, Ukrainian officials claimed Russia had lost almost 100 helicopters. In October, Ukraine’s General Staff estimated Russia’s total helicopter losses at 123.

Many analysts again believe the actual number is likely somewhere in the middle, putting Russia’s helicopter losses in the range of 50-100 aircraft downed, destroyed on the ground, or damaged beyond repair.

This level of attrition is taking a major toll on Russia’s fleet of approximately 1,200 military helicopters. Attack helicopter losses may also negatively impact Russia’s ability to provide close air support for its ground forces.

Breakdown of Estimated Russian Helicopter Losses

A reasonable breakdown of estimated Russian helicopter losses based on available information could be:

– 15-25 Ka-52 helicopters
– 10-20 Mi-28 helicopters
– 10-15 Mi-24/35 helicopters
– 10-15 transport helicopters
– 5-10 naval helicopters

This would put Russia’s total helicopter losses at around 50-75 aircraft, the majority being attack helicopters.

Aircraft Loss Locations and Causes

Russian aerial losses have occurred across the breadth of Ukraine. But aircraft have proven especially vulnerable over contested areas of eastern and southern Ukraine. Fierce fighting in the Donbas and around Kherson has led to significant aircraft shoot downs.

The main causes of Russian aircraft losses include:

– Surface to air missiles (SAMs) – Ukraine operates S-300 and Buk M-1 SAM systems capable of downing jets and helicopters at medium to long range. Russia’s inability to achieve air superiority has exposed its aircraft to Ukraine’s SAM umbrella.

– Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) – Portable, shoulder-fired missiles like the Stinger have downed many low flying helicopters and some fixed-wing aircraft. Russia has been unable to eliminate MANPADS threat.

– Aircraft fire – Ukrainian fighter jets, though limited in number, have managed to shoot down Russian aircraft in air to air engagements. Most losses have come from ground fire though.

– Controlled crashes and accidents – Not every Russian aerial loss has come exclusively from enemy fire. Damaged aircraft have crashed in controlled events. And military aviation inherently carries risks, although fog of war makes it difficult to identify crashes specifically attributable to accidents.

– Destroyed on ground – In addition to aircraft shot down mid-flight, some Russian planes and helicopters have been destroyed by Ukrainian attacks while on airfields.

Comparison to Ukraine’s Estimated Aircraft Losses

While Russia has suffered attrition of its air assets, Ukraine has as well. However, Ukraine entered the war with far fewer aircraft and air defenses than Russia.

In March, U.S. estimates put Ukraine’s fixed-wing aircraft losses at around 45 jets, or more than half of its pre-war fleet. This included many Su-27 fighters and Su-25 ground attack aircraft.

Ukraine’s helicopter fleet has also been depleted through shoot downs and combat damage. As of August, Kyiv Independent estimated Ukraine had lost 15 helicopters.

Overall, while both sides have sustained meaningful aircraft losses, Russia had more air assets to absorb that attrition given its much larger military machine. Numerical superiority in aircraft remains on the Russian side, despite losses.

Impact on Russia’s Air Campaign

The degree of Russia’s aerial attrition has surprised many observers. Prior to the conflict, Russia’s modernized military was expected to achieve air superiority quickly. However, fierce Ukrainian air defenses prevented Russia from controlling the skies.

Russia’s aircraft losses have likely contributed to its failure in establishing air dominance. The losses have impacted Russian air operations in a number of ways:

– Reduced volume of sorties – High attrition appears to have made Russian pilots more cautious and vigilant, leading to fewer flights per aircraft.

– Greater reliance on standoff cruise missiles – Russia has used long range missiles to substitute for manned aerial missions in some cases. This reduces risks to Russian pilots but expends expensive munitions.

– Shift away from contested airspace – Russia’s remaining attack aviation has focused more on areas where density of air defenses is lower.

– Lower availability of close air support – Reduced numbers of Su-25s and attack helicopters have made it more difficult for Russia to provide strike support for its ground troops.

– Moved focus toward south and east – After failing to defeat Kyiv and northern Ukraine, Russia shifted its battered air forces toward less defended areas in the Donbas and south.

So while Russia maintains an overall edge in numbers of military aircraft, reduced availability and wariness of aircrews have lowered its operational tempo. Ukraine’s air defenses remain potent enough to impose ongoing attrition on Russian aerial assets.

Prospects for Future Russian Aircraft Losses

As the Ukraine conflict continues, Russia is likely to see further aircraft losses. This will especially be true if Ukraine receives additional Western air defense systems, like the NASAMS expected to arrive soon.

Russia itself could potentially reverse the trend by suppressing more Ukrainian air defenses. But Russia has so far been unable to make that breakthrough. An increase in Russian attack sorties would also expose its aircraft to more attrition.

At some point, aircraft losses may take a psychological toll on Russian pilots as well. However, Russia can draw from substantial reserves of combat aircraft and a large air force.

Economic impacts could affect Russia’s ability to replace aircraft over the longer term. But in the near future, Russia seems poised to absorb more downed aircraft, though likely at an operational cost. Absent a major breakthrough, the skies over Ukraine will remain dangerous for Russian aviators.


By all accounts, the Russian Aerospace Forces have suffered meaningful and likely unexpected losses of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters during the Ukraine war. Total fixed-wing losses are estimated in the range of 70-100 jets and total helicopter losses around 50-75.

This aerial attrition has contributed to Russia’s inability to gain air superiority over Ukraine. While Russia retains an overall numbers advantage in military aircraft, reduced availability and wariness of pilots have lowered the intensity of Russian air operations.

Looking ahead, Russian aircraft will remain vulnerable to potent Ukrainian air defenses equipped by Western nations. This suggests Russia is likely to see further attrition of its aircraft in the months ahead as long as the conflict persists.

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