Russia is using retired soldiers-turned-mercenaries to conduct air support missions in Ukraine, indicating that it is struggling to provide adequate aircrew for its ongoing invasion, the latest UK defense intelligence update revealed Friday morning.
Ukraine announced that a pilot of a Russian fighter jet captured earlier this month has confessed to being a member of the Wagner mercenary group and was formerly a Russian air force major.
The pilot in question flew a Russian Su-25 FROGFOOT ground attack aircraft that was shot down by Ukrainian forces on June 17.
This revelation, if true, is a sign that retired personnel is needed in order to shore up what may be severely thinned-out aircrew.
According to the UK intelligence update, this is likely due to both Russia's heavy losses in the ongoing war and an insufficient number of suitably trained personnel.
Older models, older equipment
Another fact reportedly revealed by the captured Russian pilot was that, rather than using the Russian military's navigation equipment, he was using commercial GPS.
The implications of this, according to UK intelligence, is that the aircraft used by Wagner mercenaries are older Su-25 models. In other words, Russia is not providing Wagner with up-to-date equipment.
This follows earlier reports throughout the invasion of many Russian-aligned troops, such as those fighting for the pro-Russia separatist-controlled breakaways in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), are forced to rely on older and out-of-date equipment, in addition to being underequipped in general.
In addition, Russia is also reportedly being forced to pull older Soviet-era weapons, vehicles and equipment out of storage to compensate for heavy losses and difficulties in manufacturing further arms due to sanctions and import restrictions.
This is a developing story.