Ukraine’s Outspoken MiG-29 Pilot “Juice” Killed During Mission

Major Andrii Pilshchykov was an informal ambassador of sorts for the Ukrainian Air Force, giving some of the best accounts of the air war.

byStetson Payne, Tyler Rogoway|
Andrii Pilshchykov Juice RIP
Ukraine MOD


Ukraine is mourning one of its most widely known fighter pilots after a mid-air collision in Zhytomyr Oblast. Major Andrii Pilshchykov, better known by his callsign “Juice”, was one of three pilots killed in the crash involving two L-39 jet trainer aircraft.

Juice served as something akin to the informal 'voice' of the Ukrainian Air Force at times, providing numerous first-hand accounts of Ukraine’s air war to The War Zone and other media outlets, sometimes from the cockpit of his MiG-29 Fulcrum as he sat alert on the ground. These included detailed perspectives, from the first desperate hours over Kyiv to fighting the scourge of Iranian-made drones heading for Ukrainian cities.

Then Capt. Andrii Pilshchykov, callsign "Juice", with a Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum. Juice/Ukrainian Air Force.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirmed Juice’s death Saturday morning, reporting that he was previously awarded the Order of Courage, Third Class. The Ukrainian Air Force said the two L-39s collided during a combat mission, but specific details of the flight remain unconfirmed.

The crash remains under investigation, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed, in a video that paid tribute to the three fallen aviators, mentioning Juice by name.

Juice's accounts of combat included a sprint to his home base as the first cruise missiles struck, then serving as an infantryman as Russian troops launched failed special forces and air assaults against the airbase. He went on to describe harrowing combat missions against Russian Su-35s and MiG-31s, as well as Ukraine's adoption of the AGM-88 HARM in suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions along the front line.

Tributes to Juice continue to pour in across social media. Apart from his exploits in the cockpit, Juice was among the most vocal advocates for Western fighter jets and weapons for the Ukrainian Air Force. In July 2022, Juice and another pilot, callsign “Moonfish,” visited Washington D.C. speaking to Congress and the Pentagon on the need for Western fighter aircraft.

Juice acted as an ambassador for an air arm at war — a unique arrangement to say the least — that allowed him to represent the pilots and support personnel of the Ukrainian Air Force. In his death, that mission continued. We really don't know how many Ukrainian aviators or support personnel have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty during this horrible war, but there have been many. The loss of Juice serves as another stark reminder of just how terrible the costs of this 'special military operation' have been.

Blue skies and tailwinds Juice.


One series of videos, originally published by the Operational News of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, shows a traditional tribute paid to the fallen pilots through a piano-burning: a ritual that is said to date back to the World War II-era U.K. Royal Air Force and which has since been adopted elsewhere, too. The original tweet with those videos also revealed the callsigns of the other deceased pilots: “Minka” and “Prokazin.”

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