Ukraine's Ministry of Defense has reported significant damage to multiple Russian aircraft and a combat helicopter resulting from an explosive incident, allegedly orchestrated by saboteurs, at the Chkalovsky Air Base in the Moscow region.
Among the aircraft affected is the Il-20, originally developed by the Soviet Union by retrofitting the Il-18 passenger aircraft with an integrated ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) station and a radar surveillance station positioned beneath the fuselage. It's worth noting that, dating back to the 1970s, a mere 20 of these specialized aircraft were manufactured, and only a fraction of them have undergone modernization and remain in operational service today. Notably, in September 2018, one of these operational Russian aircraft fell victim to friendly fire when it was inadvertently downed by the S-200 anti-aircraft system in Syria.
Investigative efforts are currently underway by the team from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation to probe the sabotage incident that occurred on September 18, 2023.
Unidentified individuals planted explosive devices on the airfield, leading to the detonation that severely impacted two aircraft, namely the An-148 and Il-20 reconnaissance planes, both belonging to the 354th Special Forces Aviation Regiment, as well as a Mi-28N helicopter, which had been actively engaged in countering aerial threats over the Moscow region.
Evidently, the explosion's focal point on both aircraft appears to be near the centerline, resulting in substantial damage that renders them unserviceable for an extended period. The helicopter's tail beam was particularly affected, with one An-148 sustaining severe damage and another, parked in close proximity, incurring minor harm.
During the incident, trespassers gained access to the airfield and triggered explosions that affected two Russian Ка-52 attack helicopters, causing significant damage to two additional aircraft in the process. Notably, the airfield hosts government and military aircraft, including strategically vital assets such as special reconnaissance planes and air command posts, exemplified by the IL-80, often referred to as the "doomsday aircraft."
Considering the high-value aircraft stationed at the facility, it raises questions about the security measures in place and how these unidentified individuals managed to infiltrate the base and carry out the sabotage. This incident mirrors a previous act of sabotage at the Veretye military airbase in the Pskov region on November 1, 2022.