Aerospace & Defense Ukraine Has Shot Down A Top Russian Fighter Pilot Michael Peck Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. I cover defense issues and military technology. May 24, 2022, 07:16pm EDT | Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Russian Sukhoi Su-25 jet takes part in a joint military exercise with the Belarussian army on Oct.
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[+] 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) ASSOCIATED PRESS Ukrainian air defenses have claimed another victim: a top Russian fighter pilot. Kanamat Botashev, a retired major general in the Russian Air Force, was killed when his Su-25 ground attack aircraft was hit by a Stinger missile, according to the BBC’s Russian-language service (English translation here ), which contacted three of Botashev’s former subordinates.
Botashev is believed to be the highest-ranking Russian pilot killed in a war where Russian airpower has been roughly handled by Ukrainian aircraft and anti-aircraft defenses. Equally important, Botashev is the latest in a series of Russian generals killed in combat as they struggled to energize the flagging Russian invasion of Ukraine. On May 22, the Ukrainian General Staff’s Facebook page featured a brief post claiming that the Ukrainian 80th Air Assault Brigade had shot down an Su-25 Grach (NATO code name “Frogfoot”) with a 9k38 Igla (“needle”), a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile.
The post was accompanied by a photo of smoke on the horizon that purportedly marked the crash site near the city of Lviv in western Ukraine. There has been no official confirmation by the Russian government. However, the BBC’s Russia service, which monitors Russian social media, picked up on chatter that Botashev was the pilot of the downed Su-25.
Botashev reportedly attacked his target – which might have been troops or supply depots – with unguided rockets, and then bombs, before his aircraft was hit by a Stinger missile as Botashev exited the target area, according to a post on a Telegram channel by a Russian who apparently witnessed the attack. The U. S-made Stinger, which took a heavy toll of Soviet aircraft in the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, is a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapon like the Igla.
Other Russian pilots on the scene could have mistaken the two, or simply termed any Ukrainian man-portable anti-aircraft missiles as Stingers. Ukraine’s arsenal mostly consists of Soviet-era weapons, but the U. S.
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. . There are few people on this planet who have lived the sky as you have,” posted another user on a Telegram channel, according to the BBC.
“The sky takes the best, today it took you. ” An FIM-92 Stinger missile launch in 1988. (Photo by: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty .
. . [+] Images) HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Before his retirement, Botashev was a fighter-bomber pilot who eventually commanded a Russian Air Force fighter regiment (roughly equivalent of a U.
S. Air Force wing of three squadrons and 72 aircraft). He was rated as a “sniper,” or master pilot with 15 to 17 years of experience.
However, his career was cut short by a bizarre incident in 2012 involving an Su-27 fighter. “Major General Kanamat Botashev, at that time the commander of the air base in Voronezh, flew to Karelia to the military airfield in the village of Besovets,” according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta (English translation here ). “The general, who flew MiGs, asked his friend, the commander of military unit 23326-2, Colonel Yevgeny Oleinik, to ‘ride’ him on the Su-27.
” “The colonel could not refuse the general. Oleinik took the front – commander’s – chair, Botashev sat down behind him. The colonel took off.
And in the air, Botashev took control and made a few simple maneuvers (turns, turns and rolls). This was not enough for the general. He decided to perform aerobatics – a bell.
But he lost control, and the Su-27 went into a tailspin and crashed. The general and the colonel managed to eject. ” To be fair, Botashev would not have been the first high-ranking pilot guilty of risky behavior.
And even the best pilots can and have been shot down by ground fire, according to the fortunes of war. Nonetheless, the question remains as to why a 63-year-old retired general was flying combat missions in the first place. Some will claim that this reflects desperation among Russian commanders.
At least 12 generals – mostly in the ground forces – have been killed as they led their troops from the front in an effort to bolster flagging morale. However, it is also possible that a veteran fighter pilot like Botashev couldn’t resist a chance to see some action, and pulled strings to get himself back into the cockpit of a combat jet. Russia has lost at least 26 aircraft since the war began in February, including nine Su-25s , according to Oryx, a Web site that tracks Russian and Ukrainian losses.
Out of a force of about 1,500 combat aircraft, that’s not an unsustainable loss rate. However, war is a psychological battle as much as a physical conflict. Having generals shot out of the sky is no way to win a war.
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