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Putin’s Next Problem: Is Russia’s Air Force Scared to Fly over Ukraine?

Tu-22M3M from the Russian Air Force. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine’s unfriendly skies: On day 101 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is pushing hard in the Donbas, but the Ukrainian forces are putting up a stiff fight.

The Russian Air Force Over Ukraine 

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the Russian Aerospace ForcesRussian military aviation has seen a lot of discussion in the war. More than 100 days into the conflict, and the Russian air force has failed to achieve air superiority over the Ukrainian skies.

“Russian air activity remains high over contested ground in the Donbas with Russian aircraft conducting strikes using both guided and unguided munitions. Russia’s inability to suppress or destroy Ukrainian strategic air defence systems in the opening days of the conflict limited its ability to provide tactical air support to ground manoeuvre elements, contributing to the failure to advance on Kyiv,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

As a result, the Russian air force has to rely on long-range fires thru stand-off munitions, such as cruise missiles.

“Consequently, Russian air activity has been largely restricted to deep strikes using air and surface launched cruise missiles to disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and supplies. These strikes alone however have failed to have a meaningful impact on the conflict and Russian stocks of precision guided missiles are likely to have been significantly depleted as a result,” the British Ministry of Defense added.

In the ongoing fighting in the Donbas, the Russian Aerospace Forces are supporting Russian ground troops primarily through close air support.

“With its operational focus switching to the Donbas, Russia has been able to increase its employment of tactical air to support its creeping advance, combining airstrikes and massed artillery fires to bring its overwhelming firepower to bear,” the British Military Intelligence stated.

But the increased usage of long-range fires translates into more collateral damage and civilian casualties. Footage from the ground in the Donbas shows entire Ukrainian villages and small towns utterly destroyed by the indiscriminate use of long-range fires by the Russian military.

“The combined use of air and artillery strikes has been a key factor in Russia’s recent tactical successes in the region. The increased use of unguided munitions has led to the widespread destruction of built-up areas in the Donbas and has almost certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties,” the British Ministry of Defense added.

Russian Casualties in Ukraine

The rate of Russian casualties remains slow, but the overall number also remains unsustainable.


Russian Su-35 fighter jet. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 31,050 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 210 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 175 attack and transport helicopters, 1,376 tanks, 680 artillery pieces, 3,379 armored personnel carriers, 207 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,337 vehicles and fuel tanks, 95 anti-aircraft batteries, 540 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 52 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 122 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.