Russian leaders are likely concerned about how the country’s air defenses “continue to be compromised” by drone attacks, according to the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD).
The ministry made the assessment on Monday in an intelligence update describing a May 3 strike by multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Russia’s Seshcha air base, located about 93 miles north of the Ukrainian border. The Ukrainian army has not confirmed its involvement in such attacks on Russian territory.
The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of being responsible for other attacks on Russian soil, including an alleged assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin in a failed drone strike earlier this month. Another well-documented case of drone attacks occurred in December when two separate strikes targeted the Engels airbase, located deep in Russia.
The MOD update described the importance of the Seshcha base to Putin’s forces.
“Seshcha is a hub for the VTA [Russia’s Military Transport Aviation] in western Russia and played a major role in enabling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry wrote in its assessment. “Russia is also using the site to launch attack drones at one way manufactured by Iran to Kiev”.
The statement continued: “The VTA is a well-resourced element of the Russian Air Force, essential for transportation across the vast country.”
The MOD also said an An-124 heavy transport aircraft was likely damaged in the May 3 attack.
“Russian leaders will fear that Russia’s air defenses will continue to be compromised, putting key strategic assets such as VTA bases at risk,” the ministry said.
Guy McCardle, editor of the Special Operations Forces Report (SOFREP), said Newsweek that Russia built “some of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world” during the Cold War, but time has taken its toll.
“I think the problem may be that these systems are getting old and may not have been maintained properly over the years. As such, they may not be working exactly as intended,” McCardle said. “A second factor is that the Russians probably don’t have as much ammunition as they would like for their air defense systems, and the ammunition they do have may also be old and non-functional.”
He also said that while “the Russians have the know-how when it comes to building these systems”, they “probably don’t have as many as they would like, and they almost certainly don’t have all the sensitive areas. protected in accordance with their doctrine”. three-level approach, where if an enemy missile passes through one level, it is destroyed by another.”
Newsweek contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry by email for comment.