Russian Anti-Air Systems down Ukrainian drones, intensifying air superiority battle

According to Russian defence ministry statements, their Buk-M3 and Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile batteries successfully engaged and destroyed three Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles being operated by Ukrainian forces near the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka over the last few days.

The capabilities of Russia’s anti-aircraft missile systems were on full display again this week as several Ukrainian reconnaissance drones were shot down over embattled regions of eastern Ukraine.

According to Russian defence ministry statements, their Buk-M3 and Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile batteries successfully engaged and destroyed three Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles being operated by Ukrainian forces near the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka over the last few days.

Videos released by the Russian military show the moments of impact as the missiles streak towards the drones, detonating in precise proximity bursts that shred the aircraft’s components. A wreckage of a Bayraktar could be seen smoldering in a field in one of the clips.

The downing of the drones represents the latest in a longstanding effort by Russian forces to deny Ukrainian reconnaissance and combat operations in the airspace over eastern Ukraine through the aggressive employment of anti-air batteries like the Buk and Tor systems.

Ukraine has made extensive use of unmanned aerial vehicles like the Turkish-built Bayraktar for intelligence gathering, artillery spotting, and even light strike missions against Russian troops and armor. Losing the capability to conduct these drone operations could significantly hamper Ukraine’s operations.

For their part, Ukrainian officials did not deny the drone losses but maintained shipments of new aircraft would continue to offset Russian efforts to control the airspace.

As the conflict grinds on, the battle for air superiority between Russian surface-to-air missile crews and Ukrainian drone operators shows no sign of letting up. With both sides doubling down on the importance of dominating the airspace over the front lines, more aerial encounters seem inevitable.