Russian pilot misses newest air-to-air missile over Ukraine and now the West knows one of its greatest military secrets
Russian military hardware is disappointing everyone with its poor performance and, although everyone expects that at some point Russian military high technology will appear, the reality is that failures of all kinds are constantly occurring in its military equipment. The latest of them is related to a very particular type of missile of whose operation and internal equipment practically nothing is known. Something that may change in the coming weeks after a unit falls into the hands of Zelenski’s army.
It is the R-77-1 model, a Russian-made, medium-range air-to-air munition that the Ukrainian emergency services have found and unearthed. In the images published on social networks it can be seen how the missile was stuck in the middle of a forest with more than half of its length underground.
One of the possibilities pointed out by the latest reports opens the door to the possibility that the Russian pilot had fired the missile by mistake and it – due to an as yet unknown factor – did not execute the ordered attack. Another possibility is that the missile detached from the fighter’s tether due to a failure of attachment or a problem with the hitch and fell plummeting to the ground.
These types of findings become real treats for military engineers and technicians who don’t waste a minute figuring out how they work. One of the most recent examples – within this war – occurred in March, when very specific models of decoy darts fell on Ukrainian soil and allowed Ukrainian and allied scientists to investigate their construction.
The data collected from this reverse engineering process is used to learn how they function internally, the technological level of enemy armed forces and, ultimately, to create countermeasures. Weaknesses of integrated systems can be studied and more can be learned about other munitions that can potentially share elements.
The base version of the R-77 (nicknamed AA-12 Adder by NATO) is an air-to-air missile that the once Soviet Union began developing in the early 1980s. Finally, in the Russian Federation era, it was put into service in the 1990s as one of the most flexible munitions in the medium-range field.
The relative success – including export success – of the missile has allowed the manufacturer Vympel to develop and create variants and new models based on the R-77. In the case of the Ukrainian find, it is the R-77-1 version that began operating in 2010 and was integrated 5 years later into the Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, inaugurating its operational life in maneuvers in Syria.
It is designed to shoot down aerial threats such as other fighters, attack aircraft of all types, bombers, helicopters and even cruise missiles. For this purpose, it is equipped with a full range of electronic warfare protections that allow it to reach its targets within a radius of 110 kilometers and at an altitude of 25,000 meters.
It has a significantly higher weight than the basic version, which translates into a longer range and a warhead of 22.5 kilograms. The propulsion system is based on a solid fuel rocket that catapults it to more than 4 times the speed of sound.