The Ukrainian Air Force successfully targeted the Belbek airfield in temporarily occupied Crimea on January 31. This strategic location, hosting the 38th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the russian Air Force with Su-30SM2 and Su-27 aircraft, has been subject to previous attacks. Notably, the airfield also accommodates other tactical aviation units of the russian Aerospace Forces and was prepared for MiG-31 deployment in the previous fall, featuring deceptive silhouettes on the ground.
The evidence suggests that the strike utilized Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles, a choice consistent with past attacks on critical targets. Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleschuk confirmed this method of attack. These missiles typically target fortified command posts on airfields, as exemplified by the destruction of a similar facility on January 5-6 at the Saki airfield.
A video capturing one of the missiles hitting its target enabled OSINT geolocation, indicating that one missile struck the underground command post of the air base. However, conflicting reports from the russian ASTRA Telegram channel suggest a hit on a communications center, referencing military unit number 80159, which corresponds to the 38th Fighter Aviation Regiment. This air base also houses the radio center for the entire Black Sea Fleet Air Force headquarters. Considering the likelihood of multiple targets, the destruction of the mentioned hardened object remains probable. Unofficial information also points to the possible destruction of radar stations, particularly the Nebo type radars maintained by the russian federation at the Belbek airfield.
While uncertainties persist about the destruction of aircraft, it seems less probable due to the Storm Shadow/SCALP missile’s primary design for protected underground targets. Reports indicate a landslide along the coastline after the strike, implying that at least some explosions were subterranean. High-quality satellite images are anticipated soon, given the cloudless weather over temporarily occupied Crimea in recent days.
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