The War Zone has now obtained satellite imagery from Planet Labs of Russia’s Saki Air Base on the occupied Crimean Peninsula after yesterday’s explosions.
It seems like the three Su-24 Fencer swing-wing combat jets, along with an Su-30 Flanker fighter jet, were destroyed on the open apron.
At least three Su-30 Flankers and three more Su-24 Fencers and another Su-24 and adjacent structure, along with an additional separate structure, all in this same portion of the base appear destroyed. A fifth Su-24 looks to be damaged, too.
The Ukrainian Air Force claimed earlier today that at least 10 aircraft at the base were destroyed.
The satellite imagery also shows what appears to be the result of a huge fire raging through open grassy spaces to the northeast of the revetment area and the south of the apron. Pictures and videos taken from nearby locations yesterday showed significant amounts of dark smoke rising from the base after the initial blasts.
The damage seems to be quite localized. This leads to the conclusion that the armed drones used were being operated by individuals relatively close by.
The large craters are still unexplained. It raises the debate whether Ukrainian forces may have utilized a stand-off strike capability that they were not previously known to have, including a potential small stockpile of domestically-produced short-range ballistic missiles.
If Saki Air Base was subjected to some kind of air or missile strike, it would underscore a very clear decision by the Russian military to not take more proactive steps to shelter combat jets at this location.
No matter what, the Russian Navy’s 43rd Independent Naval Attack Aviation Regiment seems to have suffered significant losses, which will impact its ability to fight in Ukraine. This episode can only be highly embarrassing for Russia.
The extent of damage and more information is still not disclosed. However, it is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Russian Ministry of Defense’s initial claim that no “aviation equipment” was damaged in what it has insisted was an accident was a lie.