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The Russian Air Force Is Dying in Ukraine

MiG-35 fighter. Image Credit: Russian Government.
MiG-35 fighter. Image Credit: Russian Government.

The battle on the ground in Ukraine continues as the Ukrainian military is trying to take advantage of a tactical breach in the south and turn it into an operational breakthrough. 

While the two militaries’ ground forces are going at it, the air war over the battlefield continues on the sidelines. 

For the Russian Aerospace Forces, the hasn’t gone very well, and with no end in sight, it is likely that its capabilities will further deteriorate and affect its deterrence levels. 

Russian Air Force in Trouble

According to the latest estimate by the British Military Intelligence, the “Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have lost approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft in combat since February 2022. It has also been flying some of its combat aircraft types far more intensively than in peacetime.”

The estimate of the British military clashes with that of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, which claims to have destroyed more than 320 fighter, attack, and bomber aircraft. There have been several instances of the Russians shooting down their own aircraft.

“All aircraft have a projected lifespan in flying hours. It is highly likely that with this extra wartime use, Russia is eating into many of its airframes’ lifespans far more quickly than the VKS planned for,” the British Military Intelligence stated.

The Russian military will have trouble maintaining its fleet of aircraft at appropriate levels because of the international sanctions in place. However, despite the sanctions, Moscow has found a way to furnish the Russian industry with the necessary parts for several platforms, including drones and missiles. 

“The VKS maintains the ability to surge sortie rates over occupied Ukraine. However, as the war continues much longer than the Russian Ministry of Defence originally planned for, wear and tear of airframes is likely to have reduced the viability of the VKS’s long-term tactical air power,” the British Military Intelligence added. 

Russian Casualties in Ukraine

Meanwhile, on the ground on day 583 of the Kremlin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Russian military and pro-Russian separatist forces took fewer casualties than the average.

For the third day in a row, the Russian forces lost a bit over 300 men killed, wounded, or captured. This continues the trend of the past week of relatively low casualties. After more than 19 months of war, the Russian forces have been losing an average of almost 500 men every day. 

The reduced rate of daily casualties over the past week or so is hard to explain but likely indicates an easing up on the direct fighting in southern Ukraine. The Ukrainian forces have achieved a tactical breach in the vicinity of Verbove, in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, but haven’t turned it yet into an operational breakthrough. 

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Friday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 277,660 Russian troops, destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 316 attack and transport helicopters, 4,687 tanks, 6,409 artillery pieces, 8,972 armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, 794 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 21 warships, submarines, boats, and cutters, 8,836 vehicles, and fuel tanks, 536 anti-aircraft batteries, 4,991 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 930 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,529 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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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.