Calling Bullshit

While I’m all over the idea of some stout patriot bringing down a modern jet with a hunting rifle, this one just flat-out didn’t happen:

VLADIMIR PUTIN will be left fuming after a Ukrainian pensioner shot down a SU-35 fighter jet over the skies of Chernihiv, according to claims. Marketed as “world-beating”, the plane costs a whopping £74 million to manufacture. The jets have been deployed to Ukraine and have flown many sorties during the current war. They boast all the qualities associated with the best modern fighters in the world, such as super-manoeuvrability and supersonic speed.
Yet despite these advantages, a humble Ukrainian pensioner was allegedly able to shoot down one of the jets with his hunting rifle – leaving the Russian President incandescent with rage.

Read the article, and study the photographs to understand my skepticism.


  1. Sure, using full choke and triple ought buck on the hunting “rifle” he’s holding for the photo op…

    Though in one photo it looks like the rifle he has slung is a Mossy.

    I suspect someone was watching a copy of Flight of the Intruder recently or got a copy of the Stephen Coonts book and decided to tell a vignette of the story from the perspective of the DRV farmer hero, relocated in Ukraine.

    And what was the video of the jet supposed to be?
    Farmer Illya yelling ” Hey y’all! Watch this!”

    Gotta be fake though, Joe Biden says you can’t fight a government if it’s equipped with fighter jets and all you have is a rifle. That’s why we need to take them away from you, see?

  2. When soldiers claimed to have shot down the Red Baron with machine gun fire as he was flying low over the trenches, THAT was believable.

    This? Not so much.

    And yes, I know they “officially” gave credit to some Canuck pilot.

    1. The angle of the single fatal bullet wound in Richthofen’s body proved it was ground fire, although not which machine gunner. The Canuck pilots (one that he was chasing and one chasing him) probably helped by distracting Richthofen so he probably didn’t notice he was overflying the trench lines and machine guns at low altitude. That’s something Richthofen taught pilots not to do, because a fabric covered airplane with a top speed around 110 mph is a relatively easy target – and easier when it’s painted bright red.

      There’s another unknown person that deserves partial credit, someone who shot Richthofen in the head a year before. He recovered enough to go back to duty, but maybe some remaining brain damage showed that day, because he did things he would have gigged one of his own pilots for. He had a new pilot, who was his cousin, whom he told to hang back and watch on his first day. The Canadian squadron also had a newbie hanging back and watching. So the two newbies got into a clumsy dogfight until Richthofen saw it and broke it up. Then he became obsessed with killing the Canuck newbie for daring to engage the Richthofen newbie. The Canuck squadron commander dove in to save his guy, overshooting but causing Richthofen to break off – but just as soon as Richthofen was temporarily clear of this experienced pilot, he went right back to the newbie hunt. The Canuck commander got back on his tail, Richthofen continued to fire at the newbie while dodging bullets from the rear, and this three-plane procession went right over a cluster of Allied AA, who did their job and nailed the German plane in the middle.

  3. I don’t believe it either. Even if he managed to actually hit it. ( how far do you need to lead a jet at 400+ knots and some random altitude? A whole lot more than a quail! ) What would he have to hit that would cause enough damage? Jet fuel does not ignite when hit by a round and Fuel tanks are self-sealing. SU-35 is a dual engine aircraft with redundant critical systems and the pilot’s area is armored.

    But medals and newspapers are cheaper than stinger missiles and You tube is full of videos of shoot downs that claim to be real but are just clips from realistic video games.

    So 98% propaganda — but fun story.

    1. > What would he have to hit that would cause enough damage?

      Hope that the shot FODs an engine, perhaps? What’s the likelihood of that, even assuming something like a 12-ga. slug that just happened to get sucked in?

      1. I’m not sure a 12 Ga. slug would take out enough blades to cause the imbalance that would lead to a catastrophic failure. A flame out probably. but it’s a twin engine aircraft with automated flight control surfaces. Is there a jet crew chief out there?

      2. I don’t know about the SU-35 engines, and I gave up on waiting for the video to load, but I know of a case when a single broken #4 sheet metal screw sucked into the intake destroyed the compressor in an F-111 engine. It’s not just the one bit of stray steel; if it hits a blade and the blade breaks, the pieces break other blades in a chain reaction. The damage from one screw that broke off in front of the intake was so bad that when the highest-ranking of all the E9 Chief Master Sergeants on the base happened to walk by at night and happened to shine his flashlight at the intake, he saw the damage clearly. And this was really bad for those who’d signed off on an engine inspection after the pilot reported having to shut it down! The entire base staff was assembled for the Colonel and his staff to yell at us for hours, and that was just the punishment for the innocent.

        So a shotgun loaded with steel pellets in a large birdshot or small buckshot size could do this – on the one in a million chance of getting two pellets in just the right places at just the right time. The plane would have to fly low enough to come into shotgun range. I think the guy would have to fire the shotgun straight up when he heard the plane coming, because by the time he saw it would be too late to get the cloud of shot out in front of the airplane. Everything would have to be aimed and timed perfectly – although blindly – so the airplane hit the shot cloud, the shot was spread out enough to hit both engines, and at least one shot on each side avoided the FOD deflectors and smashed a compressor blade. With both engines out the plane is going down.

        If he was using a rifle, at best he could take out one engine or one hydraulic line, of two or three redundant control systems – and connecting with that single shot is even less likely than getting both engines with one shot shell. One non-explosive bullet should not bring the plane down, although it’s possible that an inadequately-trained pilot would let the plane touch the ground before he adjusted to the effects of any damage. Or perhaps the Soviets didn’t provide an adequate armor ring around the compressors, so the fragments of compressor blades wiped out the other compressor or critical wires, fuel lines, or control lines. But in any case, it would have to start with a one-in-a-million blind shot.

  4. Truth is he got the pilot drunk in a local bar and pilot error crashed the plane, or else Soviet maintenance did.
    Otherwise, utter BS.

  5. When I was being paid to fly the most versatile jet fighter ever produced (The McDonnel F4 Phantom II – I flew C, D, E and G models) we clearly understood the concept of the ‘golden BB’.

    No matter how good we were (still are, just ask us) some peasant with a Mosin can still get one round into a critical part….For the F4 it was usually the liquid oxygen converter that was located on the belly of the aircraft, between the important seat and the passenger seat.

    Is it possible? Hell yes. Is it probable? Well, maybe. Is it reproducible? Hell, no.

    1. Very impressive flight history doc. The F-4 was a great airplane. Not to doubt your golden BB, but accounts I’ve read of that occurring involved a number of ground guys with auto rifles unloading upward at a fairly low level aircraft carrying dumb munitions, not one guy with a single shot rifle. Why would that air superiority Sukhoi be messing around below ~ 15,000 feet with modern air to air weapons available now? Maybe chasing a helicopter?

      1. Like the A-10, the Sukhoi has a titanium ‘bathtub’ for the pilot (fun fact: When the A-10 was being built, we bought titanium sponge from the Soviets, through various cutouts – which is why it was so expensive and rare. Now? Titanium sporks, 3/$10).

        So the Russians, being commies, figured they could down-design elsewhere?

        At any rate, I said it was possible, not especially probable, and certainly not repeatable.

        And Damned fine propaganda, either way.

        1. That’s the Su-27, the Su-35 is the Soviet equivalent to the F-15E.

          I can see in theory someone taking a rifle and shooting the pilot through the canopy.
          But it’d be an extremely lucky shot if the aircraft were in the air rather than sitting on the ramp.
          One in a million shot if not more unlikely.

          A mission kill by damaging the radar in the nose is more likely, or hitting an external store causing a failure there, and even that’s unlikely given the speeds involved.

  6. Wow!! Double wow!! With a shotgun!!? What kind of magic loads was he using? The propaganda just never quits. I would like some lessons from this guy regarding calculating lead so as to improve my relatively crappy sporting clays scores.

  7. Yeah, pure Bravo Sierra.

    Like Flight-ER-Doc, I know of the Golden BB issue from my time analyzing air defense, and later planning strike packages. Although we usually assumed it would be from massed fire from lots of infantry weapons when flying at tree top level.

    That aircraft was coming down from an altitude way too high for a plausible hit from a rifle, let alone the shotgun our “hero” was toting in the video. I’d guess a SAM, or maybe AAA.

    The most practical way to take out a jet with a rifle is to shoot the pilot as he’s getting into the aircraft. Or maybe shooting one of the tires out as it touches down.

  8. Now just hang on one darned second!

    Are you people who were, or are, actually involved in flying jets, in combat, for a living, telling me that a guy with a rifle can actually have an (pun trigger warning) impact on a guy in a fighter jet?

    Joe Biden said it ain’t so!
    Joe said it! I believe it!

  9. In the Falklands War one Argentine jet was allegedly shot down by ground fire.

    But I’m going to hang this on coincidence: yes, he probably did fire at the jet, but something else hit it simultaneously.

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