Ukraine Situation Report: Patriot Kill Marks Hint That It Downed Aircraft Inside Russia

Ukraine shows kill markings painted on a Patriot air defense battery that align with enemy aircraft downed inside Russia.

byHoward Altman|
Ukraine seems to be claiming it downed Russian aircraft inside Russia with a Patriot battery.
Ukrainian Air Force screencap


The Ukrainian Air Force on Monday released a video that appeared to include a tacit claim that one of its donated Patriot air defense systems downed several Russian aircraft on May 13, a day when Moscow lost at least four and possibly five aircraft within its own borders

The video was released in conjunction with the celebration of the Anti-Aircraft Missile Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Day, one of many such honors Ukraine holds for its troops. In one shot, there are images of two Russian fighters and three Russian helicopters emblazoned on the side of a Patriot battery. The three helicopters and two jets have the date May 13 inscribed underneath.

A screen capture of the Ukrainian Air Force video shows images of three Russian helicopters and two Russian fighters painted on the side of a Patriot air defense battery. The three helicopter and two jet images bear the date May 13. (Defense Industry of Ukraine image)

As we reported at the time, Russia lost two Mi-8 Hip helicopters, a Su-34 Fullback strike fighter, and a Su-35 Flanker-E, with no survivors on May 13. All four aircraft came down in Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, opposite northeast Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast.

As news of that incident emerged, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuri Ignat suggested that there was actually a third helicopter downed, but that the Russians themselves accidentally took down their own aircraft.

Video on that day showed one of the Mi-8s breaking up after what looks as if a missile hits it near the town of Klintsy, about 50 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border. 

Video also emerged of the downing of a Russian fighter that day.

While we raised the possibility in our story at the time that one of Ukraine’s donated air defense systems could have been involved in downing those aircraft, we also noted that such a move inside Russian territory could jeopardize future arms supplies. U.S. and allied officials have repeatedly said that such arms are only meant for use inside Ukrainian territory.

Shortly after the aircraft were downed, speculation floated about the possibility that a Patriot system might have been involved.

It is unclear why Ukraine waited until now to indicate that a Patriot battery might have been used, if Kyiv has any concern that such a use might cause consternation of allies or if this is just another information operation.

During a press conference today, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuri Ignat made no mention of such a claim nor was he asked about it.

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We've reached out to the Pentagon and to Ignat and will update this story with any information provided.

At least one of the helicopters was said to be hit in a location about 160 miles from Kyiv, the presumed location of Ukraine's two existing existing Patriot batteries. While it is theoretically possible for a Patriot interceptor to hit a target that far away, such a shot has a low probability of hitting a target, one expert told us.

The longer the distance, the less likely a Patriot is to hit a target, David Shank, a retired Army colonel and former commandant of the Army Air Defense Artillery School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, told The War Zone Monday afternoon.

“It would be a wasted shot in my opinion,” he said. “I say that based on mission requirements. Patriot systems are deployed to defend critical assets, meaning not take ‘pot shots’ at long range targets who may be planning to strike elsewhere.”

Given that, four, or even five kills from that distance would be a significant feat.

It is also possible, Shank noted, that Ukraine could have set up remote site launchers to engage targets further out. It's also possible, he said, that the Patriot's radar was able to detect and track targets that far and relay information to an air defense system much closer.

Maybe there is another tactic or capability in play that we are not aware of. Or the whole thing could be a propaganda ploy to confuse the Russians. We just don't know at this point.

We'll update this story when more information becomes available.

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, Ukraine appears to be expanding its bridgehead across the Dnipro River in the occupied portion of Kherson Oblast. Russian occupation official Vladimir Rogov complained on his Telegram channel Sunday that contrary to Russian Defense Ministry reports, Ukrainian troops have not been ousted yet.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister said that her forces are continuing to make gains across the eastern and southern portions of the front lines while Russia is attempting to "continue to advance in the directions of Lyman, Avdiiv, and Marin. The enemy is trying to dislodge our troops from their positions, but receives a decent rebuff. Heavy fighting is going on there now."

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu - who has apparently survived Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny aimed in large measure at ousting him - has made some more bold claims, albeit as usual without proof.

Speaking during a “special teleconference” on Monday, Shoigu said Russian forces have destroyed “15 airplanes, three helicopters, and 920 pieces of armored hardware, including 16 Leopard tanks, in the South Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk directions alone, where Ukrainian troops are making futile attacks.”

The loss of the Leopards, said Shoigu, represented “nearly all of the tanks of this type that Poland and Portugal provided” to Ukraine.

According to the latest figures from the Oryx open-source tracking group, there is no mention of any Polish- or Portuguese-donated Leopards being lost. But Oryx does indicate that Ukraine has seen eight German-donated Leopard 2 tanks taken off the battlefield.

There was one 2A4 variant destroyed and two damaged, and two Leopard 2A6 tanks destroyed, two damaged and one damaged and abandoned.

The real number is likely higher because Oryx only tabulates vehicles for which is has visual confirmation.

But he didn’t stop there. Shoigu claimed that “over the past month, Russian air defense units have shot down 158 HIMARS rockets, 25 Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and 386 unmanned aerial vehicles.”

You can read more about how difficult it really is for Russian air defense to shoot down the U.K.-donated Storm Shadow air-launched, conventionally armed cruise missiles in our story here.

As for Prigozhin’s putative putsch, Shoigu said it failed “mainly because the Armed Forces personnel were loyal to the military oath and their military duty.”

The mutinous march on Moscow “did not have any impact on actions of the Groups of Forces,” he added. “I thank the Russian servicemen for their faithful service.”

One big issue Shoigu didn't address was the fate of Russian Gen. Sergie Surovikin, the head of the Russian Aerospace Forces who was detained last week over his role in Prigozhin's mutiny attempt. His status remains murky.

Speaking of Prigozhin, new imagery has been released showing the damage that was caused when a Russian helicopter attacked a fuel facility in Voronezh in an attempt to slow down his march. You can see the incident in this video below.

The satellite imagery, released Monday by Maxar Technologies, appears to show at least two of the storage tanks were damaged during that attack.

While Shoigu proclaimed his claimed Storm Shadow kills, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday said he did not want to provide Ukraine with the air-launched, conventionally armed Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile out of concern that Kyiv would use them on Russian territory.

“We carefully check all the requests we receive," Scholz told German ARD TV. "But for us there is a principle that I share with the U.S. president – we do not want the weapons we supply to be used to attack Russian territories."

Taurus - the product of a joint venture between MBDA Deutschland of Germany and Saab Dynamics of Sweden - reportedly has a range of more than 300 miles. You can read more about what it would bring to the table for Ukraine here.

The battle for Neskuchne in Donetsk Oblast last month was the first victory for Ukraine in its now nearly month-old counteroffensive. But as The New York Times reported Sunday about the fight for this tiny village along the Mokri Yaly River, it was tougher than expected and in many ways emblematic of the slow-but-steadily moving counteroffensive that is chewing up small pieces of territory at a heavy cost.

"The Russian defeat, on June 9, was Ukraine’s first win in a prolonged counteroffensive that is well into its fourth week but moving at a slower pace than expected. In that respect, the battle for Neskuchne served as an early warning that Kyiv’s and the Western allies’ hopes for a quick victory were unrealistic and that every mile of their drive into Russian-occupied territory would be grueling and contested."

After Neskuchne was cleared, which was announced on June 10, "Ukrainian forces have managed to retake several villages farther south. But since that early string of victories, Ukraine’s offensive has been slow. Ukrainian forces have been mired by staunch Russian defenses, mounting casualties and field after field of land mines.

Ahead of next week's NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, The Economist took a deep dive into the challenges facing the alliance both in the current fight in Ukraine in which it is not directly involved, as well as any future fight in which it might be.

"A senior NATO official points to five immediate priorities: combat-capable ground forces, particularly heavy armored brigades; integrated air and missile defense systems capable of protecting units on the move; long-range firepower such as artillery and rocket launchers; digital networks that allow data to move around the battlefield and back to headquarters quickly and securely; and logistics to shunt large armies across Europe while keeping them supplied," The Economist wrote.

"This list largely reflects needs that have been identified while observing the war in Ukraine: old-fashioned artillery has inflicted the majority of casualties; maneuvering without armor has proven extremely costly. The problem is that the majority of European armies fare woefully on most of these measures (notwithstanding pockets of excellence, such as Finland’s artillery-rich army of conscripts).

In January, France announced with great fanfare that it was donating AMX-10 RC infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

Over the weekend, however, a Ukrainian commander complained to the French AFP news outlet that AMX-10s — highly-mobile armored vehicles with a tank-like main gun — are "impractical" for front-line attacks.

A 34-year-old battalion commander within the 37th Marine Brigade, who uses the call sign 'Spartanets,' said the tanks' "thin armor" means they can be used as fire support, but not in front-line assaults.

Spartanets claimed one four-man crew has already died because of the vehicle's thin armor.

"There was artillery shelling and a shell exploded near the vehicle, the fragments pierced the armor and the ammunition set detonated."

He added that the French AMX-10 also had issues with gear boxes breaking down, possibly due to their use on dirt roads.

"Just sending out the (AMX-10) vehicles (into combat) so they get destroyed, I consider it is impractical and unnecessary because it's primarily a risk for the crew," Spartanets said.

He did not specify how many AMX-10s the elite combat formation has, and declined to show them to AFP reporters in the field.

On the positive side, Spartanets said that the AMX-10s’ “guns are good, the observation devices are very good.”

In its most recent tally, Oryx counted three abandoned AMX-10s.

What may be the first image of a Slovakian MiG-29 Fulcrum jet donated to Ukraine has emerged. The first four of them were delivered to Ukraine in March. You can read more about the history of these aircraft here. Based on its false canopy and the shape of a pattern on the right vertical stabilizer, researcher Matej Rafael Risko identified it as potentially Bort No. 0921.

Russia, meanwhile, appears to have some new aircraft in its fleet. This video below shows the delivery to the Russian Defense Ministry of a new batch of SU-30SM2 Flanker multirole fighters.

“Today we delivered to the Russian Defense Ministry another batch of new modernized Su-30SM2 fighters," said Vladimir Artyakov, first deputy general director of Rostec State Corporation. "Aircraft of this type have proven their high efficiency over the years of operation and are very important for our country’s defense capabilities. Production of aviation equipment under the state defense order at the UAC Irkutsk aircraft plant is proceeding according to schedule. All aircraft scheduled for delivery this year are already in the final assembly shop or flight test unit.”

Artyakov did not say how many Flankers were delivered in this batch.

It's bad enough when you hit an enemy mine, but there is something ignominious about hitting your own, as this Russian T-62 tank apparently did.

New video shows a Russian tank surviving at least one attack by a Ukrainian First Person Video (FPV) drone. After the first strike, the tank keeps rumbling down the road, until it stops to fire at a Ukrainian target. It appears to be hit again, but it is unclear how much damage was caused.

The Russian soldier atop this armored vehicle may not have fared quite as well during this Ukrainian FPV attack.

A small group of Russian soldiers managed to survive a Ukrainian drone attack in the occupied city of Oleskny near the Dnipro River. The troops here were apparently wounded, just a few meters from a graveyard.

As drones have created problems for both sides in this conflict, each has tried to devise ways to defeat them using so-called cope cages or improvised netting as well. The results - as you can see in this video below of a Ukrainian radar system being attacked by a Russian Lancet drone - are often not so good.

Speaking of wartime improvisation, another Mad Maxian Ukrainian vehicle has made an appearance, this one a sport utility kitted out with ballistic plates use for body armor.

More video of intense combat has emerged on social media. At one point, a Ukrainian soldier is almost killed when a captured Russian detonates a grenade.

Sometimes the spoils of this war are antiques, like this old bolt-action rifle Ukrainian forces captured along with another Russian trench.

And finally, we write frequently about tanks and jets and artillery and ammunition, but let's spend a moment to remember the shovel, a handy piece of kit.

You can use it to dig trenches and foxholes, create a latrine or, in the case of this Ukrainian mortar man, clear a round stuck in a tube.

That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.

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