To say that the Russian air force has flown into trouble in Ukraine sells the reality short.
With the war about to hit the 15-month mark, the Russian Aerospace Forces have failed to achieve air superiority despite their numerical and qualitative advantage.
In the opening days of the war, the Ukrainians expertly shifted their air defense systems, preventing their destruction by Russian aircraft or by ballistic and cruise missiles.
Russia’s airborne assets continue to play a secondary part in the conflict.
Yet despite their restricted role, Russian Aerospace Forces are taking heavy casualties.
Russian Aircraft Losses
Russia’s air force has been hit especially hard in recent days. Last Saturday alone, Russian air forces lost four aircraft — two fighter jets and two helicopters — and these losses took place in Russia.
Since the start of the war, the Russian military has lost hundreds of fighter jets and helicopters.
“The increased air threat over Russia’s border region will be of exceptional concern for the [Russian Aerospace Forces] because it uses the area to launch air power in support of the war,” British Military Intelligence stated.
Earlier in May, Ukrainian air defenses shot down a Killjoy air-launched ballistic missile for the first time. The Ukrainian military is now using advanced Western air defense systems, including U.S. MIM-104 Patriot and German IRIS-T weapons systems.
“Russia has prioritized attempting to neutralize Ukraine’s improved air defense capabilities, but in the process has likely lost several more KILLJOY,” British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate of the war. “The apparent vulnerability of KILLJOY is likely a surprise and an embarrassment for Russia: Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted the system as undefeatable.”
The Ukrainian military has also shot down several Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, further discrediting the Kremlin’s claims about Russian military and technological superiority.
The fighting in Ukraine has laid bare the institutional weaknesses in the Russian forces and shown that Moscow’s military was overestimated.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Russian forces continue to suffer significant casualties on the ground, especially in and around the town of Bakhmut in the Donbas.
On day 448 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, most of the fighting was taking place around that Ukrainian town.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 201,100 Russian troops. They also claim they have destroyed 308 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets; 294 attack and transport helicopters; 3,773 tanks, 3,198 artillery pieces, and 7,373 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles; 563 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; 18 boats and cutters; 6,073 vehicles and fuel tanks; 318 anti-aircraft batteries; 2,759 tactical unmanned aerial systems; 418 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems; and 990 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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A 19FortyFive 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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.