Content:
  1. Strike on Myrhorod. What exactly was destroyed is unknown
  2. Why the strike on Myrhorod is routine
  3. "A big problem." What threat do Russian reconnaissance drones pose?

On July 1, the Russians hit the airfield in Myrhorod with a ballistic missile. Propagandists immediately claimed that as a result of the strike, they managed to destroy two Ukrainian supersonic Su-27 fighters.

Stay updated with the latest news by following us on X (Twitter)

The Air Force officially doesn't comment on this strike to LIGA.net. But information about it has sparked a series of discussions about Ukraine's ability to protect its military airfields and the long-awaited F-16 aircraft that are soon to be based there.

"It's premature to panic that all our F-16s will be knocked out here," Ivan Kyrychevsky, a military analyst at the Defense Express Media and Consulting Company, tells LIGA.net.

What you need to know about the strike on Myrhorod, why the reconnaissance drone wasn't shot down, and what threats this highlights – briefly.

Strike on Myrhorod. What exactly was destroyed is unknown

On July 1, during one of the air alerts, a high-speed target was flying towards the city of Myrhorod in the Poltava Oblast.

Later, Russia announced a successful strike on the airfield.

According to information spreading in Western media, before the strike, a Russian reconnaissance drone spotted at least six Ukrainian supersonic Su-27 fighters at the Myrhorod airfield. It was this drone that guided the Russian Iskander missile, which allegedly destroyed two of our aircraft and damaged four others.

According to monitoring groups, on July 1, a Russian reconnaissance drone was flying over Myrhorod, monitoring the airfield. The drone supposedly recorded the aftermath of the airstrike. The video shows points that propaganda resources call damaged Ukrainian Su-27 fighters.

Скріншот з відео російських пропагандистів
Screenshot from a video of Russian propagandists

Former spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Yuriy Ihnat confirmed the fact of Russia's strike on the airfield. According to him, the enemy managed to inflict certain losses, but not nearly as much as they claim.

He also said that the Air Force is doing everything to mislead Russia, including using mockups and other means.

Officially, the Ukrainian Air Force is not commenting on this situation at the moment.

Based on the data available in open sources, one can only definitively state that the Russians launched a strike with a cluster-equipped Iskander ballistic missile at a location where a Su-27 type aircraft was stationed with an unknown degree of combat readiness, says Ivan Kyrychevsky.

Why the strike on Myrhorod is routine

Most of the Russian massive missile strikes in June were aimed specifically at military airfields, aviation expert Anatoliy Khrapchynskyi says to LIGA.net.

All this is in anticipation of Ukraine receiving F-16 fighters.

"The Russians fired over 320 Shaheds, 58 Kh-101 missiles, seven Kinzhals, and 24 Kalibrs at us in a month," he says. "This is without taking into account ballistics and short and medium-range missiles, which they used to hit Myrhorod, Dovhyntseve, and other frontline airfields."

This time, Russia published footage from a reconnaissance UAV that allegedly showed the results of the strikes. "Russia is very good at fighting in the information space," Khrapchynskyi says. "Now they've managed to launch an information wave of panic that Ukrainian Defense Forces are unable to protect F-16s at their airfields."

During air threats, all combat-ready aviation takes to the sky either for relocation to a safe place or to protect the airfield itself. Why these planes didn't take off is a question.

"We can't establish from open sources whether those planes could have taken off, whether they were mockups, or, for example, donors of parts for other fighters," Khrapchynskyi says.

"If the enemy is conducting reconnaissance and trying to hit one object, it's a sacred duty to mislead them so that they are convinced they hit a special target," says the Defense Express analyst.

Myrhorod is constantly under intense enemy attacks, Kyrychevsky adds. It can be assumed that this airfield is not used as operational. Accordingly, the protection there is weaker than at airfields that are used constantly.

All this doesn't mean that Ukrainian aviation hasn't suffered losses. But it's not worth orienting on the enemy's data when assessing them.

For example, in the early stages of the war, the Russians insisted that they had knocked out all of Ukraine's aviation and air defense, the Defense Express analyst reminds: "In 2022, they managed to hit a significant number of radio-technical equipment units that needed to be repaired after the first weeks of the war. Fortunately, everything is being repaired. Including damaged aircraft."

The fact that the Russians are exaggerating the scale of the losses inflicted is indirectly confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Air Force, Mykola Oleshchuk. Commenting on the strike on an ammunition depot in temporarily occupied Crimea on the evening of July 1, he noted:

"Once again, Ukrainian aircraft 'destroyed' by enemy propaganda continue to successfully carry out combat missions, launch missile and bomb strikes on the occupiers' positions, and eliminate important military facilities deep in the enemy's rear."

"A big problem." What threat do Russian reconnaissance drones pose?

The fact that a Russian drone could fly into the Ukrainian rear, hover over Myrhorod for several hours, transmit video, and not be shot down is a problem. The Russians are trying to compensate for the lack of long-range radar reconnaissance means with reconnaissance drones.

"After we took out their radar assets – A-50 aircraft, Nebo-M, Konteyner, Voronezh-DM complexes – Russia no longer has the ability to monitor Ukraine's airspace unhindered. They started using reconnaissance UAVs," says Khrapchynskyi.

First of all, a strong system of echeloned air defense of small and medium range is needed to combat reconnaissance drones, Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military-political observer of the Information Resistance group, tells LIGA.net.

"When we say we need a Patriot to protect Kharkiv, we must understand that Patriot needs protection from small-medium range complexes, which are not in Kharkiv," he says. "If we put a Patriot there without them, an Orlan drone will fly in, adjust fire, and destroy the Patriot. The problem is really big."

Another way to solve it is to counter reconnaissance drones at different altitudes with electronic warfare systems, he adds.

There are certain developments in creating a low-altitude radar field that will allow detecting systems that are not normally detected by classic air defense systems, Khrapchynskyi clarifies. Their implementation can be expected soon.

In addition, reconnaissance UAVs can be hunted outside of air defense, using light aviation. This is already practiced in the Odesa Oblast – a Yak-52 aircraft destroys Russian UAVs.

A drone is a very small air target that may not even be displayed on the radar, Kyrychevsky explains. It's difficult to aim at it until you see it visually.

"They invented such a method in the style of World War I: flying on a Yak-52 and shooting down these 'birds' with the onboard weapons of crew members," the analyst says. "It's much easier to visually detect a drone this way than with classic means of radio-technical detection."

This experience can be scaled to those regions where light aviation can operate without extreme threat, says Kovalenko. In Kharkiv and Sumy, this option is problematic – it's easy to shoot down an aircraft there. But in Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, or Poltava Oblast – quite possible.

Another option is to hit them with drones, Kovalenko says: "An ordinary FPV drone with a warhead approaches the enemy drone and detonates remotely." So far, none of these methods is used absolutely effectively everywhere.

Reconnaissance drones are also a problem for the Russians, they can't effectively counter Ukrainian UAVs, Kyrychevsky says. So it's not worth underestimating the Air Force: "Because who keeps the resource of our aviation in proper condition so that it's able to take to the air, bomb Russians, and shoot down missiles?"

Read also: Former U.S. combat aviator on F-16 advantages and battles with Russia