Armed Forces

Polish MANPADS Defending Bakhmut. Russian Bombers Shot Down with Piorun


During the Battle of Bakhmut, the Russians are trying to overcome the Ukrainian defences with airstrikes. However, the Russian air assets are often shot down by the Polish Piorun MANPADS. In recent days, Piorun missiles have been used to shoot down at least one Su-24M bomber, while another airframe returned to base withstanding serious damage, rendering it, most probably, not airworthy.

The downing of the Su-24M jet on February 13th at 6.03 PM was reported by the 3rd "Spartan" Ukrainian National Guard Brigade. Piorun MANPADS was used as the weapon of choice here. The jet was hit with the first missile launched, during a bombing raid against the Ukrainians in the Bakhmut region.

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Piorun launcher was operated by Maxim Baluta who, as the NGU press department announced, shot down the first enemy aircraft in the Kharkiv oblast on 6th March 2022. His air defence unit is armed with the Polish Piorun MANPADS. Over the last 3 weeks, it has shot down 5 Russian fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in the Bakhmut area.

On the very same date, 13th February, also near Bakhmut, another Su-24M was downed, most probably with the use of the Piorun MANPADS. The pilot was a member of the Wagner Group, even though the jet was wearing VKS markings. The aircraft barely returned to base, with extensive tail damage and a burning engine. On the next day, a recording showing the extent of the damage was published.

Piorun MANPADS, ready for use. Bakhmut frontline, February 2023.
Photo. Armed Forces of Ukraine

Another Russian jet was also shot down in the region with the use of MANPADS by the Ukrainian Border Guard (Su-25). The jet, attacking civil and military targets in the Bakhmut area crashed into a forest.

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The number of reports on downed aircraft, and the Russian airstrikes conducted to support infantry in the Bakhmut area, despite the strong air defences, is symptomatic. The Russians want to overcome the Ukrainian defences at any cost, best if that happens before Putin's speech, planned next week.

The air assets surely can do this, but at a high price. The Russian command must be very aware of that, as solely aircraft that are almost obsolete are used for that purpose, with the Wagner Group pilots - Russian Air Force officers who are retired or facing disciplinary action.

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This situation is yet another opportunity to use the Piorun MANPADS - which turned out to be highly effective on the Ukrainian frontline. The system features a programmable seeker that is resistant to countermeasures, and it also features a proximity sensor. The seeker's operation can be tailored to match a specific target before the missile is launched - this enhances the kill probability. The launch mechanism also features an optoelectronic sensor that makes it possible to conduct operations during the daytime, and at night (thermal imaging channel). Piorun can be used against air threats at a distance ranging from 400 meters, up to 6.5 kilometers, flying at altitudes ranging from 10 meters to 4 kilometers.