Ukrainian Success in Crimea Attributed to NATO AWACS, Spy Satellites & Drones

  • Bureau
  • 11:33 AM, September 25, 2023
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Ukrainian Success in Crimea Attributed to NATO AWACS, Spy Satellites & Drones
RQ-4 Global Hawk

American and NATO early warning aircraft (AWACS), Poseidon surveillance planes, and high-altitude drones provide persistent intelligence to the Ukrainian Army command, leading to a situation where the highly protected Crimean Peninsula is being attacked at will.

A section of the Russian media has lamented that the intelligence-gathering dominance of the West, which operates from the borders of the Black Sea without intruding into Russian territory, is enabling the Ukrainian military to 'see' detailed activities of the Russian armed forces both on the frontlines and at the rear.

The attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol last week, along with an earlier attack that caused major damage to a ship and submarine under repair there, is testimony to the information superiority of the NATO-led Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia, as reported by

Furthermore, through the utilization of aerospace reconnaissance capabilities, NATO can meticulously oversee the actions and movements of the Russian military, even discerning details such as the types of aircraft taking off and the specific missiles launched. This vital information is promptly relayed to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, providing them with a substantial advantage in operational awareness across both the battlefield and the rear areas, according to the report.

In the initial eighteen months within the North Military District, Russian ground forces faced these challenges. With support from volunteer organizations and civil society, Russia partially mitigated deficiencies in tactical drones and secure communications. The focus then shifted to countering NATO's AWACS, Poseidons, and Global Hawks.

As of 2022, the Russian Aerospace Forces had three A-50 AWACS and six modernized A-50U aircraft, with another A-50U recently delivered by Rostec. The upgraded A-50U enhances detection capabilities for air, ground, and sea targets, with reduced weight, extended flight range, and mission duration.

Ukrainian Success in Crimea Attributed to NATO AWACS, Spy Satellites & Drones
Russian A-50 Early Warning Aircraft with MiG-31 jet @via open sources

The A-50U, resembling a mushroom-shaped radar on an Il-76 base, tracks up to 300 air targets, detects enemy bombers at 650 km, and cruise missiles at 215 km. Expanding its use to boost situational awareness would require more aircraft, as would deploying Tu-214R aircraft, albeit in limited supply.

Last week, Russian forces received a modernized 'newfangled' A-50U AWACS. Rostec said the aircraft can detect new aircraft types and track more targets and guided fighters concurrently than the previous modification (A-50). This newly delivered aircraft is lighter and has better range.

Russia also has roughly two dozen Il-20 radio reconnaissance aircraft, and there's potential in the versatile "Sych" reconnaissance container. Mass-producing and deploying Sych radars on suitable carriers could address reconnaissance shortages.

The report concludes that addressing reconnaissance needs through increased deployment of A-50U and Tu-214R aircraft, as well as mass-producing Sych radars, presents a viable solution.

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