​Yak-52 Sport Aircraft Takes Down russian Orlan-10 Near Odesa

proving those opposing the idea to transfer trainer jets to Ukraine wrong
Illustrative photo: Yakovlev Yak-52 / Open-source photo
Illustrative photo: Yakovlev Yak-52 / Open-source photo

The Yak-52 is a sport and training aircraft, which does not even have an aiming sight, let alone machine guns, but the fact it managed to take down a russian drone brings back the discourse about using light aircraft to fight drones in the rear

Loitering over Odesa in an attempt to scout the area, a russian Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone was shot down by a Yak-52, an aircraft designed for amateurs and sports. Aside from the fact how unusual it sounds, it loudly speaks of the shortage of anti-aircraft systems and missiles, which is only now beginning to improve thanks to the unblocking of U.S. support by Congress.

The video published on social media shows the Yak-52 circling above the damaged drone while the latter descends on a parachute. The exact location is unknown, believed to be in the vicinity of the seaport city of Odesa in southern Ukraine.

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Then, the question of how exactly the drone was shot down is answered by another video, in which you can hear the plane opening fire.

This question is actually quite important because the Yak-52 aircraft's design originally does not provide for any weapons installed, not even sighting devices for aiming them. Of course, one possible explanation is that the propeller plane was turned into a combat aircraft specifically for air defense tasks, attached some machine guns with ammo belts, etc. Alternatively, it could be that a second crew member was firing at the drone with light small arms, just like in the early days of World War I, more than a century ago.

Considering the situation, let's return to the topic that was earlier raised, when the russian forces had just begun using Shahed suicide drones against Ukraine: suggestions of utilizing simple and cheap aircraft to intercept low-speed targets such as drones. One of the proposals was to try the A-29 Super Tucano. A brief reminder, it is a propeller aircraft positioned as an attack aircraft for low-intensity conflicts.

Moreover, as it surfaced in April 2023, Ukraine twice submitted a request to purchase Super Tucanos from Brazil, but to no avail.

Therefore, another viable option could be the literal "air tractor" — the AT-802 from Air Tractor, American manufacturer of agricultural aircraft. In the AT-802U Sky Warden version, this aerial vehicle turns into a lightly armored attack aircraft. Back in the day, U.S. special forces wanted to buy 75 units in this variant, but after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the order was trimmed.

AT-802U Sky Warden / Defense Express / Yak-52 Sport Aircraft Takes Down russian Orlan-10 Near Odesa
AT-802U Sky Warden / Open-source photo

Although it must be admitted that the price tag for these aircraft turned out to be more than questionable, because the initial plan was to spend USD 2.2 billion on the AT-802U Sky Warden program. But the fact is that the bulk of the money went to the sensor systems on this aircraft plus the obvious price modifier when it comes to aircraft for special forces.

AT-802U Sky Warden cockpit / Defense Express / Yak-52 Sport Aircraft Takes Down russian Orlan-10 Near Odesa
AT-802U Sky Warden cockpit / Open-source photo

Also, this whole issue once again brings back to the discussion, why choose a manned aircraft for anti-drone defense missions in the first place. Because specialized drones can quite handle this task just fine. For example, the other day Mojave from General Atomics, which is advertised not just as an attack drone but as an unmanned attack aircraft, managed to successfully deploy a Minigun machine gun in the USA. There is also the Akıncı unmanned fighter from Baykar, capable of speeding up to 360 km/h and using APKWS rockets or their Turkish counterpart Cirit to destroy enemy drones.

General Atomics Mojave uncrewed aircraft with a minigun / Defense Express / Yak-52 Sport Aircraft Takes Down russian Orlan-10 Near Odesa
General Atomics Mojave uncrewed aircraft with a minigun / Photo credit: General Atomics
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