Videos and pictures indicate that Russian air defenses have shot down a Su-34M, the latest and rarest variant of the country’s new attack aircraft, over eastern Ukraine.
In the morning of July 18, 2022, Russian correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny published a video of what he described as the air defenses of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) destroying a target above Alchevsk, west of Luhansk.
“The fireball was falling to the ground for over a minute,” Poddubny wrote.
Several hours later, TikTok user vasyaba7 published a video showing a smoldering wreck of a fighter jet in a field.
“It fell 150 meters from the house. Shot down yesterday. Ukrainian airplane,” a person can be heard as saying in the background. According to the comments by the author, the video was filmed near Alchevsk.
No other aircraft crashes were reported in the area, implying that there is a high possibility the two videos are linked, with the second one showing the aftermath of the crash that occurred at night.
Several more videos and pictures were later published by vasyaba7 and other social media accounts, showing the wreck in detail. On those photos, the marking of the Russian Air Force are clearly visible, indicating that the aircraft was actually Russian rather than Ukrainian.
The fact that the videos portray an instance of friendly fire was noticed by numerous military analysts.
Russian war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny published a video over night which he said shows Russian/LNR air defenses destroying a target over Alchevsk. It appears that Russian air defenses shot down its own Su-34 bomber. https://t.co/qTxccwJRua https://t.co/fVEvBoUy21 pic.twitter.com/RmBDCrRyJ3
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 18, 2022
Furthermore, fragments of the fuselage number – RF-95890 – are visible on the wreck, indicating that it belongs to the Sukhoi Su-34M, the modernized variant of the Su-34.
Su-34s have been the workhorse of the Russian Aerospace Forces, sustaining heavy casualties in the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Numerous aircraft of this type have been visually confirmed as destroyed, including some that Ukrainian volunteers began cutting-up and selling as souvenirs.
However, this is the first instance of the modernized version of the aircraft being confirmed as shot down. Ordered in 2020, it was developed with the capability of carrying a wider range of precision weapons, as well as other improvements to avionics.
The first batch of four Su-34Ms was delivered in early July 2022, presumably headed straight to the front of Russian-Ukrainian war.
We may be looking at the remains of 10% of the Russian Su-34M modernized variant known to exist.
According to @scramble_nl there’s only one Su-34 whose RF number ends in ’90.’ That is RF-95890 & it is an M – with improvements in avionics, radar, comms, EW & weapons systems. https://t.co/ap7vA2LrM7 pic.twitter.com/dDGcZ9PUGi
— Evergreen Intel (@vcdgf555) July 18, 2022
Ukrainian sources reported that one Su-34M has already been shot down by Ukrainian air defenses over Kharkiv, however, the report has not been confirmed by visual evidence.