At the end of 2021 we went to Ukraine to have a close look at the Kiev military aviation Su-25 Frogfoot, combat aircraft that in the event of a conflict with Russia would be called to attack the Moscow armored formations. The Ukrainian Air Force (Povitryani Syly) operates a range charismatics jets such as Su 24, Su 25, Su 27 and MiG 29. All Ukrainian Su 25 are now based in Kulbakino air base, close to Mykolaiv city, in the southern of Ukraine, under the 299 Tactical Aviation Brigade.
The 299th BTA is the successor of the carrier’s [means deck-based] 299 Attack Aviation Regiment (instructional and research), which was formed November 4, 1976 at the airbase Saki according to the directive of the Navy General Staff № 730/1/0889 on October 17, 1976. The basis for the formation of the regiment was 279 Independent carrier’s Aviation Regiment.
The battle order was mixed: 1st Sqn. – Yak-38, 2nd Sqn. – on MiG-21 fighters. From September 1979 to October 1981 2nd Sqn. had 8 L-39 aircraft that were used for training of crews for night flights. In October 1971 L-39 aircraft were transferred to Ochakiv.
The main task for the regiment was flight training of personnel to the Yak-36M and Yak -38 VTOL combat aircraft and preparation of flight crews for attack deck-based aviation regiments of the Air Forces of Northern and Pacific fleets. Night flights on MiG-21 started in December 1977, and in 9.01.1978 – on Yak-38, for the first time in the history of the Soviet Navy.
In June, 1997 the group of KSHAP 299 (Korabel’nyj Shturmowoj Aviatsionny polk – Ship-based Attack Aviation Regiment) personnel took part in the exercise of Black Sea Fleet “Coast-77.” Regiment’s tasks were to cooperate with the Black Sea Fleet aircraft to provide air support for the landing troops in the area using the practical firings of unguided rockets. Group successfully completed the task.
From April 4, 1980 to June 9, 1980 a group of 299 personnel KSHAP with 3 Yak-38 aircraft were in the “RHOMBUS” task team in Afghanistan where performed special tasks of the Soviet government. Group based in Shindand, testing Yak-38 capabilities in combat in DRA.
In September 1989 the regiment was rearmed to Su-25 attack aircraft and began training personnel for this type, finishing with MiG-21. On July 3, 1991 flights on Yak-38 were also finished by order of the Commander of the Naval aviation of the USSR Navy.
The Ukraine declared independence that year, the Frogfoot regiment solidified its position in the ground attack and close air support roles, officially incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces on March 17, 1992.
On September, 1, 2003 the 299 OSHAP along with support units was reformed in 299 Aviation Attack Brigade. In 2007 the name of the unit was changed to 299th Brigade of Tactical Aviation (Military Unit А 4465), and in December, 2015 it received the honour name “299th Brigade of Tactical Aviation named after General Vasily Nikiforov”. Lieutenant General Vasily Nikiforov was former Commander of the Tactical Aviation of the Ukrainian Air Force.
In May 2005, 299th Aviation Attack Brigade was relocated to the airfield Kulbakino. From 1995 to nowdays 299 OSHAP/299 BTA participated in all exercises of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and in a lot of international as annual “Sea Brizze”, “Cooperative Partner” and others.
The MiGremont works at Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, is one of the most experienced facilities for the mainteinance and upgrade of Soviet-designed combat aircraft. Since 2010 Ukraine started a process of modernization of its aircraft and helicopter fleet.
In March 2010 the 299 Brigade received its first three modernized Su 25, two single seater named Su 25M-1 and one double seater named Su 25 UBM-1. At the end of 2013 all the Su 25 modernized were delivered to 299BTA. The upgrade package includes improvements to the weapons control and navigation systems, providing for improved bomb-aiming accuracy and weapons release from an altitude three times higher (16.000ft) as well as new attack options, such as multiple programmed attacks against a given target.
The cockpit boasts the SN-3307 satellite navigation system, which takes data from the american NAVSTAR GPS, Russian GKONASS. A new radio system is installed and a structural upgrade enables a further eight to ten years of operational service before a further upgrade. As a result, the Ukrainian Su 25M-1 can employ weapons day and night and in poor weather conditions. Another modernization is the Adros KUB 26-50 multi-caliber flare system that has been installed on all flyable jets.
This system is a more effective dispenser with larger 50mm flares in addition to the 26mm version and it is said to be more effective against Russian air defense network that is located in the Donbass region. All the M-1 Su-25 present a new digital comouflage scheme.
Since April till September 2014, the brigade has taken an active part in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) in Eastern Ukraine to protect the territorial integrity and state independence of Ukraine. The Su 25 of 299 Brigade took part in the battle for Donets’k airport such as in several Close Air Support missions in the Region. They operated fromreserve bases near the front line such as Chuguyiv and Dnipropetrovs’k. During the ATO pilots of 299 brigades performed more than 300 combat sorties to support the ground units.
Ukraine lost during operations one IL-76, one An-26, one An-30, two MiG 29, one Su 24 and five su 25. The Su-25 were lost, but all their pilots ejected successfully and alive. On 2 July 2014 the 06 Blu was lost due to technical failure returning from a combat mission. On July 16 the 03 Blu was shot down by russian MANPADS. On July 23 the 04 blu was hit by a missile launched by a Russian MiG 29 but the pilot, Colonel Serghiy Samoilov, the actual Commander of 299BTA, was able to landed at his base and the aircraft was repaired in only three weeks and it is actually flying with the new serial number 41 blu. On that same day the 33 blu was shot down, and on August 29 another Su 25, the 08 blu was shot down by MANPADS.
Despite their new ability to employ weapons from altitude, the combat missions were typically flown at very low level to help to avoid the russian air defense systems but being vulnerable by Manpads. Since September 2014, the use of aviation by Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk Protocol has been discontinued, and the brigade is nowadays on duty and combat training. A new upgrade for the Ukrainian Su-25, named M-2, is going to be started, but its details are still classified.
Text: Andrea Avian
Images: Aviation Report / Andrea Avian, Alexander Golz