Recent explosions at a Russian base in occupied Crimea damaged multiple combat aircraft.
Over half of Russia’s Black Sea fleet’s combat jets are knocked out, Western intel and officials said.
Ukraine did not immediately claim public responsibility for the apparent attack, but it has celebrated it.
Recent explosions widely considered to have been a Ukrainian attack at a Russian base in occupied Crimea knocked out over half of the Russian Black Sea fleet’s combat jets, Western officials have revealed to the media Friday.
Multiple blasts on August 9 at Saki Air Base — situated well behind the front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine — caused widespread damage, destroying several Russian warplanes and buildings.
According to multiple reports from Reuters and others, Western officials said Friday that the damage has sidelined over half of Russia’s Black Sea fleet’s naval aviation jets, greatly hamstringing the combat capability of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in the area.
Included in the damage are an unspecified number of both Russian Su-24 and Su-30 jets, which have been in use by the country’s air force for decades. There have been conflicting reports about how many aircraft were destroyed exactly, although satellite imagery from last week shows as many as 13 damaged and destroyed jets.
The British defense ministry said in an intelligence update last week that the jets lost only represent a small portion of Russia’s overall aircraft inventory available to support its war efforts in Ukraine. But there was an outsized impact on the Black Sea fleet.
“The fleet’s naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded,” UK intelligence said late last week. “The incident will likely prompt the Russian military to revise its threat perception. Crimea has probably been seen as a secure rear-area.”
Ukrainian intelligence reported in the aftermath that Russia relocated a number of other aircraft in Crimea to positions deeper in on the peninsula and to bases inside Russian territory.
Last week’s apparent attack on the Saki Air Base marked the first in the occupied Crimean peninsula since Russian forces illegally annexed it in 2014.
Although Ukraine did not immediately claim public responsibility for the blasts at the base, which its Air Force celebrated on social media, officials have admitted privately that it was behind the explosions. Some reports have suggested a ranged attack while others have indicated that Ukrainian special forces were involved. Russia has, however, blamed the explosions on an accidental ammunition detonation and attempted to downplay the damage.
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