One of Russia's few IL-22M airborne command post aircraft was shot down during Wagner's brief revolt on Saturday, which could impact Russia's air force command and coordination capabilities, the UK Defense Ministry said in Thursday morning intelligence update.
The IL-22M is part of a small command, control, and communications fleet of around 12 aircraft, according to the UK.
"The Il-22M is part of a relatively small fleet of up to 12 aircraft, heavily utilized for both airborne command and control, and radio relay tasks," said the UK Defense Ministry. "These special mission aircraft have played a key role in orchestrating Russian forces in their war against Ukraine. As high value assets they have operated within the safety of Russian airspace, far beyond the range of Ukrainian air defense systems."
Consequences of losing the aircraft
The UK said that the loss of such aircraft could result in reduced capability to manage air missions, in particular during "high tempo operations." This likely would refer to multiple concurrent and back-to-back operations. Russia has been using its air forces to effect against Ukrainian armor and mechanized infantry during Kyiv's offensive, as well as to strike stockpiles of Western weapons in missile strikes.
The downing of the aircraft and loss of the crew to infighting could also damage morale, said the UK Defense Ministry. Russia has been grappling with issues of troop morale since the war began. There have been reports of deserters and those refusing to comply with orders being shot.
Around 13 Russian pilots were killed in the mutiny, according to the Rybar blog. The IL-22M was not the only aircraft lost in the short-lived revolt. At least three M-8 helicopters were also downed after they struck Wagner during its march toward Moscow, the PMC's head Yevgeny Prigozhin said.