Powered by
Sponsored by

Legendary Ukrainian display pilot known as Grey Wolf dies in combat

Oksanchenko had come out of retirement to fight the Russian invasion

su-27 collage A collage of an Su-27 and Oleksandr Oksanchenko | Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

Ukraine's military announced on Tuesday colonel Oleksandr Oksanchenko, a veteran fighter pilot, had died in air combat in the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Oksanchenko was an experienced pilot of the Su-27 fighter and had the nom de guerre 'grey wolf'. The Su-27, which is a large fighter, has the NATO codename Flanker. According to the Facebook page of European Airshows—a popular non-profit that promotes safety at European airshows—Oksanchenko was the Ukrainian Air Force's display pilot of the Su-27 from 2013 to 2018.

European Air Shows said Oksanchenko’s aircraft was shot down over Kyiv on Friday night by the S-400 air defence system operated by Russia.

“Col. Oksanchenko was not only a very experienced pilot who won a number of awards for the best flying display at many events across Europe, but he was also a true fan of airshows. Despite leaving the active service and joining the reserves in late 2018 he volunteered to remain in the Ukrainian Flanker Solo Display Team as a coach/advisor and travelled with the team during the 2019 display season which was also the last airshow season for the team,” European Airshows said.

He had come out of retirement to fight the Russian invasion.

Oksanchenko had performed flight displays of the Su-27 in the Ukrainian Air Force as well as at international air shows such as the Slovak International Air Fest, Czech International Air Fest and Royal International Air Tattoo, the UK's premier flight display event. At the 2017 RIAT event, Oksanchenko was part of the Ukrainian contingent that got awards for best displays.

Following his death, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posthumously awarded Oksanchenko the Hero of Ukraine honour. In a post on Twitter, the president's office described Oksanchenko as “one of the best fighter pilots in the world”.

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines