Why Russian Air Force Won’t Fight in Ukraine
Where is the Russian Air Force? On day 117 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still looking for a breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. The fighting in and around Severodonetsk continues unabated, but the Russian forces have made little progress over the past few days. Despite logistical and force generation issues, the Ukrainian forces are still putting up a fierce defense.
Russian Aerospace Forces Over Ukraine
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the Russian Aerospace Forces and their lackluster performance in Ukraine.
In the initial days and weeks of the war, the absence of the Russian air force over the skies in Ukraine was one of the major mysteries of the war. Despite boasting a numerical and technological superiority, the Russian Aerospace Forces were simply absent, conducting mainly airstrikes with standoff munitions from great distances.
“Russian ground and tactical air operations have remained focussed [sic] on the central Donbas sector over the weekend. In the conflict to date, Russia’s air force has underperformed. Its failure to consistently deliver air power is likely one of the most important factors behind Russia’s very limited campaign success,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
Fast forward 117 days into the conflict, and we now know that the Ukrainian air defenses have been one of the major reasons that Russian aircraft aren’t flying at will. Bolstered by timely and accurate intelligence-sharing by the U.S. and other Western intelligence services, the Ukrainians have been able to largely protect their long-range anti-aircraft systems and still use them almost four months into the war. Russian combat sorties, thus, face multiple threats.
At higher altitudes, Russian pilots have to deal with the Ukrainian S‑200 and S‑300 anti-aircraft systems, while below 10,000 feet, they have to look out for a sea of man-portable air defense systems (MANPAD) that the Ukrai …