A Russian air force Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft and a Sukhoi Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft were shot down by Chechen militants on 3 and 4 October. Three crewmembers are considered as missing in action. Unconfirmed reports suggest they all died.

On 3 October, two Su-25s flew a reconnaissance mission in the area north of Chechen capital Grozny. Because of poor visibility in foggy weather, the pair descended from their initial 15,000ft (4,575m) cruise altitude to about 9,000ft.

Soon after that one aircraft was hit, presumably by a portable surface-to-air missile, and crashed. The other Su-25 returned safely to Buinaksk air base.

The next day, an Su-24MR was sent to locate the crashed Su-25, but this aircraft also failed to return, and is thought to have been shot down.

In another incident, a Mil Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter, carrying a cargo of ammunition, exploded as it made a rough landing in a mountainous area near the Chechen-Dagestani border.

With Russian forces in control of about one-third of Chechen territory, the air force is flying fewer than 30 combat sorties a day.

The Russian army has deployed two Stroy-P unmanned reconnaissance systems, with about 10 Yakovlev Pchela-1 unmanned air vehicles, to the area. The Pchela-1, which was developed 10 years ago, is equipped with only a black and white television camera.

The hostilities against the Chechen militants has directly influenced defence procurement proposals for next year.

The government plans to increase the initial defence acquisition budget by 50%, a move that is likely to be approved by the Russian parliament.

The army is reported to have ordered several dozen Yakovlev Pchela-1 remotely piloted vehicles. The assembly of the first two Sukhoi Su-39s, formerly the Su-25TM all-weather and night-attack capable aircraft, has begun at the Ulan-Ude production plant (UUAPO).

The AVN military news agency reports that UUAPO is to produce six Su-39s next year and another 12 in 2001.

Source: Flight International