Satellite Imagery Confirms Ukrainian Counterattacks On Russian-Occupied Airfield

Kherson air base
Satellite imagery of the outfield outside Kherson appears to show burning Russian helicopters.
Credit: Planet

LONDON—Satellite imagery appears to confirm that a Ukrainian attack on an airfield previously captured by Russian forces resulted in the destruction of several Russian helicopters.

Planet imagery of Kherson airbase, captured on March 15, shows several helicopters destroyed and more on fire after apparent attacks by Ukrainian forces. 

Ukraine’s defense ministry reported that 30 helicopters were destroyed in an apparent commando raid on the airfield overnight on March 6/7, but the claims could not be independently verified. 

The new imagery suggests that Ukrainian forces may have since followed up on that raid with artillery. The satellite imagery shows the airfield pockmarked by shell craters. 

Joseph Dempsey, a research associate for defense at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, tells Aerospace DAILY that cloud cover over the region had limited the availability of imagery since the first claimed Ukrainian attacks. 

“It is possible Russia may have moved its helicopters to more defensible positions in the wake of the initial attack, which in turn may have made them more vulnerable to a targeted artillery strike if not as dispersed,” Dempsey suggests. 

Analysis by the Oryx blog, a group of independent open-source intelligence analysts, suggests as many as 15 helicopters may have been destroyed at Kherson, along with vehicles and air defense systems. 

Imagery suggests Russian forces had captured the airfield and were using it as a forward operating base.  

The airfield is on the outskirts of the city of Kherson, one of the first major Ukrainian cities to be captured by Russian forces since the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24. 

Prior to the conflict, the base had been home to a regiment of helicopters belonging to Ukrainian Army Aviation.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.