Russian Tactical Adaption : Russo-Ukrainian War


"...Along with the successful interception of most high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) [AGM-88] fired by Ukrainian aircraft, the Russian air defence network is now assessed to be achieving a significant number of intercepts against GMLRS munitions" [HIMARS].

- Dr. Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds (May 2023) Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies. London.

The same day (19 May 2023) the United States greenlights NATO to send F-16AM fast-jets to Ukraine, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies in the United Kingdom, issues yet another extraordinary report. This time on Russian Tactical Adaption in the Russo-Ukrainian War. 

[Above] Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM. How NATO F-16 aircraft would operate from dispersed locations (read: operating from roadways) while also being overmatched by Russian R-37M - all remains unclear. The F-16 is an exceedingly capable machine - but after reading this latest RUSI report - it is difficult to see a role for the F-16 in Ukraine.

This latest RUSI report contains some frankly astonishing details. 

Original link: 

https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/meatgrinder-russian-tactics-second-year-its-invasion-ukraine 

Here are some excerpts from the RUSI report:

"The efficiency of Russian long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) against the Ukrainian Air Force has also remained significant. The longest-known shoot-down against Ukrainian aircraft was at 150 km when the aircraft was flying lower than 50 feet. This appears to have been cued by a 48Ya6 ‘Podlet-K1’ all-altitude radar with the air defence missile achieving a post-apex lock on the target."

48Ya6-K1 “Podlet K1” (Cyrillic: 48Я6-К1 «Подлет-К1»; translated: “Approach”) is a mobile three-coordinate S-Band phased-array antenna low-altitude radar. The bottom back-to-back arrays are secondary radar, the thin array for international standard (SIF Mark Ⅻ STD NATO) IFF, and the larger for national Russian IFF. The narrow antenna next to the large array is a compensation antenna for protection against jamming (ECCM). 

"The strength of the air defence network is bolstered by persistent combat air patrols at medium altitudes by Russian Su-35Ss. Using R-37 missiles, these aircraft pose a significant threat at very long range. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the longest-range recorded kill by a Russian R-37 was at 177 km." 

[Above/Below] Sukhoi Su-35S 'Flanker-E' of the VKS. The aircraft features the superb N035 Irbis-E radar that can pick up opposing aircraft at long range, even if the opposing aircraft fly at very low altitudes - in clutter - and engage them with R-77-1 and R-37M. 

The precise number of Ukrainian aircraft shot down by VKS Flankers is unclear. The new extended-range R-77-1 (shown here) has a published range of ~ 110 km (59 nautical miles). The range of the ultra-long-range Russian R-37M (NATO: AA-13 'Axehead') air-to-air missile is almost 400 km (215 nautical miles). This outranges anything in NATO inventories by some 190 km (100 nautical miles).

[Above] New image of VKS Su-35S fitted for CAP over Ukraine. 2x R-37Ms (centerline), 2x R-77-1 (stations 3 & 4), 2x R-73L (stations 5 & 6), 1x Kh-31PM (station 12) and L265M10P (station 8) L265M10R (station 7) respectively. Auxiliary drop tanks are never used on Flanker. 

Kh-31 'Krypton' anti-radiation missile being fitted to the port-wing station on this Su-35S. Each engine nacelle has R-77-1 and the outboard wing stations are fitted with R-73L 'Archer' IR dogfight missiles. 

[Above/Below] Vympel R-37M (NATO reporting name: AA-13 "Axehead") was a surprise to Western observers. The weapon has a published range of almost 400 km (215 nautical miles). Designed to engage fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, transport, air tankers, ISR, AWACS, helicopters, and cruise missiles - in all weather day/night, from any aspect, in an ECM/ECCM environment, where targets can be in clutter over land or water. This includes multi-channel ripple firing (different missiles in the air at the same time flying to different targets). Think of the US-Navy F-14 'Tomcat' and AIM-54 Phoneix missile combo.

Too many Western analysts assured everyone that Russia had no more money to develop any new weapon systems due to corruption. The appearance, fielding and heavy employment of both R-37M and R-77-1 prove these voices wrong. Best to ignore them moving forward.
These two R-37Ms have been fitted to the centerline of this Su-35S aircraft between the engine nacelles. This view is from the tail end of the weapon(s).

"Although separate from the air defence system, the combination of threat from long-range ground-based anti-air capabilities, medium-altitude look-down radar, long-range air-to-air missiles, and effective point defence systems makes the air combat environment extremely lethal. For this reason, most Ukrainian fast air and attack aviation engagements utilize S-7 rockets, fired in a lofted profile from above Ukrainian positions."

"Russian air defences have become significantly more robust since the autumn of 2022. Complexes of SA-21 and SA-23 are now stationed around key logistical and C2 hubs. Critically, they appear to have SA-15 and SA-22 connected to their fire control radars, significantly improving the situational awareness and track data quality of these short-range air defence (SHORAD) systems. This has had two principal effects. First, the long-range radar, combined with systems such as the 48Ya6 ‘Podlet-K1’ all-altitude radar, have proven highly effective in denying airspace to Ukrainian aviation. Second, Russian SHORAD [Short-range air defence] systems have massively improved their point defence efficiency."

Tor-E2. This system is part of Russian SHORAD (Short-range air defence).

"Along with the successful interception of most high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) [AGM-88] fired by Ukrainian aircraft, the Russian air defence network is now assessed to be achieving a significant number of intercepts against GMLRS munitions" [HIMARS]

[Above/Below] Raytheon AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).  Length  4.92 m (16 ft 16 in), Diameter 25.4 cm (10 in).

US-supplied AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile on a starboard wing station of this UkrAF MiG-29. Integration was not as difficult as imagined as the MiG's fire-control/avionics designated the US weapon as an anti-radiation version R-27EP AA-10 'Alamo-F'.

[Below] Lockheed Martin M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) employs the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) M30/M31 rockets. Each rocket M30/M31 Length  3.94 m (12 ft 11 in) Diameter  22.7 cm (8.94 in).
Not only are US-supplied GMLRS munitions having their GPS guidance jammed by Russian EW - we now learn what we suspected for a while - that US-supplied weapons are actually being shot down 'in flight' by Russian AD before reaching their targets.

The first compelling evidence that Russian AD might indeed be intercepting incoming Ukrainian rocket fire appeared on 20 July 2022. See here.

So the obvious first-order questions would be: 

  • What is the frontal-aspect RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the AGM-88?
  • What is the frontal-aspect RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the M30/M31 HIMARS rocket?
  • What is the frontal-aspect RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the ATACMS HIMARS rocket?

"The Shipovnik-Aero is proving a particularly effective system because it has a low signature and can further obfuscate this by imitating other emitters and communications devices [DRFM]. It also has a sophisticated range of effects for downing UAVs.The Russian military is also continuing to make extensive use of navigational interference in the battle area as a form of electronic protection. This is contributing to a Ukrainian loss rate in UAVs of approximately 10,000 per month"

Shipovnik-Aero. The system uses DRFM to listen and spoof all manner of EM band transmissions pings, squawks, and comms.

"Alongside large systems such as the Shipovnik-Aero, the Russian military has been extensively rolling out EW effectors to be organic to units at all echelons. This includes counter-UAS capabilities assigned to each platoon,59 which usually include directional jammers and arrays for hijacking UAVs." 

"Another function of Russian EW troops is interception and decryption of Ukrainian military communications. The Russian military is proving highly capable in this area. Ukrainian officers recalled one incident in which the Russian headquarters gave pre-emptive warning to its units of an artillery strike based on Ukrainian troops calling in a fire mission. The Ukrainian troops were communicating with Motorola radios with 256-bit encryption, but it appeared that the Russians were able to capture and decrypt these transmissions in near real time. The most likely system for such functions is the Torn-MDM. When the Russians are not intercepting traffic, Ukrainian units note that they are reliably able to suppress the receivers on Motorola radios out to approximately 10 km beyond the FLET."

"Another EW function in the counter-UAS fight is deception measures that generate a large number of fake UAVs on enemy systems and replicate ground control stations. While the Russian military is yet to widely exploit the creation of a large number of false targets, it has the capability to do so – and these actions are growing more prevalent."

Torn-SIGINT MDM

"One important development is that the Russians have made several modifications to their tanks that are reducing the effectiveness of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). First, they are fitting vehicles – as well as many defensive positions – with anti-thermal material, which is proving highly effective." 

"Nakidka" thermal masking material

"Second, modification to the engine deck and thus the heat plume from the vehicle’s exhaust and engine is reducing the reliability of where certain ATGMs engage the target. Third, by fighting at dusk and dawn when the vehicle temperature is most similar to the ambient temperature of the surroundings (known as ‘thermal crossover’), the vehicles are harder to detect through thermal imagery. The result is a significant decrease in the probability of kill from several ATGM types, although this is only achievable by imposing a range of tactical constraints on the employment of Russian armour."

"The use of older tanks as assault guns in this role appears to be preferred as the urban environment does not give more modern Russian tanks with advanced optics and multispectral concealment a sufficient tactical advantage to justify their loss. Of course, as tanks are drawn into urban areas for this purpose, they also risk coming into direct contact with enemy armour, with armoured clashes sometimes taking place from distances as close as 50 m"

"Tank-on-tank engagements have become relatively rare, but when they occur they usually take place within 1,000 m. Engagement speed has been the determining factor in these clashes. Ukrainian tankers note that one-shot kills are possible if the point between the turret and glacis is hit. Russian explosive reactive armour (ERA), however, has proven highly effective, preventing most anti-tank systems from defeating the tank’s armour. Some operators have reported hitting tanks multiple times with barrel-launched ATGMs without knocking them out."

"...the introduction of older tanks such as the T62 and T55 to the field has been mocked online, these vehicles are largely being used in the role of the fire support function offered by BMPs and other infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs)."

T-62MV
T-55

"They represent an increase in range, protection and kinetic effect over these IFVs, and therefore pose a serious battlefield threat when there are a limited number of anti-tank guided weapons able to reach them at their stand-off range."

A recent July 23, 2023, article in the New York Times only makes the situation even dire for Ukraine. The article details how Ukraine-NATO can not deal with the Russian Lancnt attack drone. They don't even know how it communicates ( link w/out paywall).

The Lancet-3 and Lancet-3M loitering-munition drones have proven highly effective in Ukraine - and it came as a nasty shock. So much so that they almost deserve their own writing. Lancet can be used for both reconnaissance and attack. As of July 2023, US-NATO-Ukriane cannot determine how it communicates so Lancet is impossible to jam. The Russians are migrating away from reliance on a WW2-type heavy fire doctrine (barrel wear) to one of greater precision with a lesser volume of fires. Lancent was first unveiled in 2019, and so now part of this transition.  

The situation may be starting to sink in for some in the West.

On 5/524 this excellent analysis appeared. 

Editors Note: Since the time of our original writing Ukraine claimed on 25-Dec 2023 it shot down five (5) Russian Su-34s fighter-bombers, and one Su-30 fighter over 3 days. Then on 15-Jan 2024 Ukraine claimed it downed a Russian A-50 AWACS aircraft. 

We can find absolutely no evidence for these claims. No corroborating image(s) of wreckage from any source. Nothing. Zero. We could only find evidence that one (1) Su-34 Fullback might be down and an IL-22 was damaged - but landed safely. Friendly fire is (far) more likely.


Works Cited

“AGM-88 HARM.” Air Force, www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104574/agm-88-harm/.


“Air Defense Missile System “Tor-E2” | Catalog Rosoboronexport.” Roe.ru, Rosoboronexport, 2023, roe.ru/eng/catalog/air-defence-systems/air-defense-systems-and-mounts/%22Tor-E2%22/. Accessed 24 May 2023.


“Automated 3D Low-Altitude Omnidirectional Radar “Podlet-E” (48YA6-K1E) | Catalog Rosoboronexport.” Roe.ru, 2023 Rosoboronexport, 2023, roe.ru/eng/catalog/air-defence-systems/radar-and-electro-optical-equipment-for-air-target-detection/%22Podlet-E%22%20%2848YA6-K1E%29/. Accessed 24 May 2023.


“High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) — M142.” USAASC, asc.army.mil/web/portfolio-item/ms-himars-m142/.


“Kontakt-V Explosive Reactive Armour Provides Effective Protection against Modern Anti-Tank Missiles 32503162 | Weapons Defence Industry Military Technology UK | Analysis Focus Army Defence Military Industry Army.” Www.armyrecognition.com, www.armyrecognition.com/weapons_defence_industry_military_technology_uk/kontakt-v_explosive_reactive_armour_provides_effective_protection_against_modern_anti-tank_missiles_32503162.html. Accessed 24 May 2023.


“Ominous Warning: Russian Air Power in Ukraine.” Ominous Warning, theboresight.blogspot.com/2022/11/ominous-warning-russian-air-power-in.html.


“R-37 Long-Range Aircraft Missile (RVV-BD) | Missilery.info.” En.missilery.info, en.missilery.info/missile/r37. Accessed 27 May 2023.


Russia Has Deployed T-62M and T-62MV Tanks to the Border with Ukraine.” Militarnyi, mil.in.ua/en/news/russia-has-deployed-t-62m-and-t-62mv-tanks-to-the-border-with-ukraine/. Accessed 24 May 2023.


“Stormbreak: Fighting Through Russian Defences in Ukraine’s 2023 Offensive.” Royal United ServicesInstitutemenuplussearchclockpdfprintfacebooktwitterlinkedinemailprintfacebooktwitteryoutubelinkedinrss, 4 Sept. 2023, https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/stormbreak-fighting-through-russian-defences-ukraines-2023-offensive.


Seligman, Lara. ““Big Step”: U.S. Joins Major Effort to Train Ukrainian Pilots on F-16s, Other Jets.” POLITICO, 19 May 2023, www.politico.com/news/2023/05/19/fighter-jets-ukraine-biden-00097846?2. Accessed 24 May 2023.


“The Russian Air War and Ukrainian Requirements for Air Defence.” Royal United Services Institutemenuplussearchsearchclockpdfprintfacebooktwitterlinkedinemailprintfacebooktwitteryoutubelinkedinrss, 7 Nov. 2022, https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/russian-air-war-and-ukrainian-requirements-air-defence.


“UAV Interception System Was Shown at Army-2016 Forum - RUSSIAN AVIATION.” Www.ruaviation.com, www.ruaviation.com/news/2016/9/13/6857/?h. Accessed 24 May 2023.


Watling, Dr Jack, and Nick Reynolds. “Meatgrinder: Russian Tactics in the Second Year of Its Invasion of Ukraine.” Www.rusi.orghttps, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), 19 May 2023, www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/meatgrinder-russian-tactics-second-year-its-invasion-ukraine. Accessed 24 May 2023.


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Comments

  1. Publish date time stamp 24-May 2023

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  2. A bunch of Russian strike fighters have been knocked out recently, I thought Russian SEAD was meant to have taken the Ukrainian IADS apart?

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    1. Sorry for the late reply. The site is suppose to alert me to a comment. My apologies.
      Yes, that's the claim from the Ukraine side. All the channels we monitor appears to indicate perhaps 1x Su-34 was lost. Friendly Fire could also be an explanation. Russian CAP fighters are employing a lot of BVR firings - so fratricide is a constant risk. Russian had a lot of problems with friendly-fire in Georgia in 2008. So I'm not yet convinced whatever loss is due to a Ukrainian-NATO supplied system. We shall see what develops. What is more probable frankly is friendly fire. Based on Georgia in 2008, we believe that at least (at least) 50 percent of all Russian aircraft losses in Ukraine will involve IFF problems resulting in fratricide.

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    2. Apparently a Russian AWAC's has gotten hit by a pac 3 over the black sea, any thoughts?
      I don't think fratricide can be an explanation here unless Russia expected Ukraine to have an AWACs on their side of the line.

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    3. Yes. This is the rumor. We have not been able to find any evidence online of either wreckage or other information that would otherwise attempt to corroborate the account about the A-50. There is even less evidence that it was hit by "PAC 3 Patriot." However this did stop a mountain of observers and commentators from proclaiming the Ukraine assertion as` fact. As you know Russia is now advancing on nearly the entire front. That means the VKS is very active with glide-kit FABs. Ukraine air defenses are likely not what they use to be. Some Russian channels say no A-50 was involved at all - only a serious friendly-fire incident with an IL-22 that managed to land with injuries.

      This week the IDF reported that almost 20 percent of their soldiers in Gaza have been killed by friendly fire. And this is the highly touted IDF:
      https://www.jpost.com/israel-hamas-war/article-780266

      So we shall see what turns up on the A-50.

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    4. "As you know Russia is now Advancing on nearly the entire front"

      Are They? The only place their on the offensive is Avdiivka and that seems to be a major clusterfuck for Russia.
      As for the IDF wouldn't 20% of their entire force be massive or is that 20% of all casualties?

      And isn't the vast majority of Russian fires artillery driven and not aircraft, so movement would probably be an indicator of factors other than the VKS's status.

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    5. If you listens to ISW (institute for the study of war) - then no - the Russian are losing everywhere. Of course this doesn't square with this report (Jan-19 2024) from NBC "Joe Biden’s top aides bluntly told lawmakers in a private meeting on Wednesday that if Congress fails to authorize additional military aid for Ukraine in the coming days, Russia could win the war in a matter of weeks — months at best, according to two people familiar with the meeting."
      https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/incredibly-stark-biden-aides-give-lawmakers-grim-assessment-ukraine-ai-rcna134792

      I also would suggest better sources of information
      Here:
      https://x.com/WeebUnionWar/status/1749167880749318494?s=20

      and here:
      https://x.com/Suriyakmaps/status/1749463115459170381?s=20

      Most Russian fires is artillery - but the VKS is also active. Ukraine has launched drone attacks before in russia. It not new or decisive.

      Almost 20 percent of IDF casualties in Gaza is friendly fire.

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  3. Apparently Ukrainian CAR found Russia was Using North Korean missiles to help bolster their own attacks, this could suggest Russia is outstripping its current missile production.

    Also Ukrainian suicide drones hit Tula pantsir factory in Russia and an LNG terminal.
    This seems like friendly fire by the Russians.

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    1. Ukraine has launched drone attacks before in russia. It's not new or decisive.

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    2. North Korea has vast quantities of artillery compatible with Russia types. Remember that Russian expanded production of Lancet - so a narrative that they cant produce munitions is false. This war is using vast quantities of fires not seen since WWII - far beyond anything the West can produce. So leveraging DPRK stocks is simple and effective supplement to own production.

      What is so striking about the war is the narrative that if the West simply supplies Ukraine with whatever it need - they can roll the russian back. This self-inflated narrative of Western primacy is simply not supported by facts. It ignore the very reason we published this writing. It ignore Russian tactical adaptation. It wont matter what the West supplied Ukraine with - it would be countered and mitigated.

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    3. Well the narrative is more due to Russian incompetence early war, showing that the Russian bear is not unbeatable. It's like saying it won't matter what Russia supplies the Vietcong with it won't stop America.

      The main issue is that the demands of the war is outsripping western and Russian production capacity. Russia is having to supplement their own shells with NK shells, Russian forces have complained about the new shells having 25% dud rates on telegram.
      Russia can make lancets but can they make enough? does making more mean cutting corners, supplementing secure components with worse versions, making them easier to jam.
      And the drone strikes are also notable due to the long range, and the targets. Oil production is essential to the Russian war effort, and profits from it are already down from 2021. If it gets hampered it could seriously hurt the Russian economy and thus how it sustains the war.
      As to the predictions that Ukraine may fall in weeks or months, I'm very skeptical as otherwise Russia would be able to secure its left bank. Are these the same officials that predicted Kyiv falling in 3 days or Afghanistan not collapsing immediatly?

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    4. The issue seems to be the West cannot decide on which narrative they want to use. Is Russian a threat or not? As you say Russian problem early in the war show that Russia post-USSR was never a threat to NATO. The mighty Red Army was no more - and had converted to defense. Also we no know they has massive issues with EW (as the Americans did in Iraq when EA-6B operated at full power) disrupting own comms and radars.

      But some in NATO are sounding the alarm bells of impending doom from a Russian attack. The West can't have it both ways. Russian is weak because of X,Y,Z but Russia is a threat to NATO at the same time. Both cannot be true:

      "In other words, while the terms of any compromise with Russia over Ukraine would involve some tough negotiation, we can seek such a compromise without fearing that this will open the way for further Russian moves to destroy NATO and subjugate eastern Europe—a ridiculous idea for anyone who knows either the goals of the Russian establishment or the character of Poles and Estonians. These nations are in NATO and are categorically committed to remaining so. There is no way for Russia to remove them without a direct attack on NATO—a hideously dangerous undertaking that forms no part of the Russian establishment’s plans. NATO is in fact entirely safe within its existing borders. The threat to NATO’s safety and prestige are largely of its own making with its empty commitments to countries that it has neither the will nor the ability to defend.

      https://time.com/6141806/russia-ukraine-threats/

      Deep globalization has ensured Russian will have zero issues getting any military grade component or material they need thru China and India - if they can't source it internally. We stopped following or listening to sources that assured everyone that Russian would run out of missiles (read: The Heritage Foundation) long ago.

      Remember that attack on natural gas facilities that used to supply Western Europe where deliveries have been turned off - that economic pain has already occurred, so attacking it doesn't harm the Russian economy more. These attacks have no strategic consequence

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  4. Russian tank variant firing anti submarine mines
    https://i.4cdn.org/k/1705964914046371.webm

    This seems like a waste of a T-80 hull.

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    1. Yes i saw this video. Have a look here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGxPcm8O04Q

      Delete
  5. Apparently a Su-57 was knocked out by a drone on the ground, do you think this will affect Russian operations.

    Also it didn't even have a hanger, why doesn't Russia put its jets in hangers to at least hide them from satellites.

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    1. Well that's the claim.

      If the Russians want to get serious about this war they would park aircraft Hardened aircraft shelter with doors. That will stop all this drone nonsense. I would also use a lot of netting to tangle up approaching drones. You cant keep leaving your aircraft on the apron.

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    2. Apparently they had decoys on the airstrip, right next to the actual planes; painted onto the ground.

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    3. Yeah, that makes sense. Both side are well versed in decoy employment. The Ukrainians and NATO don't know what they're "hitting." Blurry satellite images don't mean much when talking about decoys.

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    4. Except the Decoys were obviously fake from even satellite images, they literall painted Su-57's on the ground; literally a foot away from the aircraft.
      I've seen the satellite images, and all the burn marks are clustered around the actual Su-57's with even fighter bomber confirming some damage.

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    5. You can use actual decoys - not just paint. They already make very good decoys. The Russian need to take the war seriously. Those aircraft should have been in hardened (underground) shelters with blast doors like the US built for for Shah of Iran in the 1970s.

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