A new—and frankly startling—photo depicts a heavily-armed Ukrainian air force Su-27 Flanker on patrol on March 1 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The photo by Andrey Rakul, published at Russianplanes.net, features Su-27 “45 Blue” at an undisclosed location, possibly Mirgorod air base in central Ukraine, home of the air force’s only Su-27 squadron.
45 Blue bristles with no fewer than 10 air-to-air missiles—arguably one of the heaviest air combat load-outs ever on an operational warplane. The missiles include six Vympel R-27 long-range semi-active-radar homers plus four Vympel R-73 short-range infrared models. The Russian-made Su-27 also packs a 30-millimeter cannon.
The Ukrainian air force operates around 250 warplanes including up to 42 Su-27s, although most of the Flankers are grounded pending repairs or upgrades. 45 Blue and presumably other Ukrainian Su-27s have begun flying with 10 air-to-air missiles apparently as part of Kiev’s mobilization for possible war with Russia.