NewsUkrainian air defense shines, inflicting heavy losses on Russian aircraft

Ukrainian air defense shines, inflicting heavy losses on Russian aircraft

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 6: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) A screen grab captured from a video shows Russian President Vladimir Putin's plane accompanied by four Su-35 fighter jets equipped with missiles during Putin's journey to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on December 6, 2023 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Russian Defense Ministry / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 6: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) A screen grab captured from a video shows Russian President Vladimir Putin's plane accompanied by four Su-35 fighter jets equipped with missiles during Putin's journey to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on December 6, 2023 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Russian Defense Ministry / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Anadolu
2:51 PM EST, March 4, 2024

The commander of the air forces, Mykola Oleshchuk, shared on his Telegram profile that the army "confirms the downing of the Su-34 fighter jet," regretfully noting, "unfortunately, just one." This victory is not an isolated incident. Previously, Ukrainian forces had utilized anti-aircraft missiles against two Russian combat aircraft - Su-34 and Su-35.

Oleshchuk remarked, "it's becoming increasingly difficult for the invaders to fly." He also pleaded to the West: "we need more systems, more weapons, to secure our skies." The streak of successes for the Ukrainian forces is ongoing. As reported by the Ukrainian armed forces, by March 1st, Kyiv had downed 11 Su-34 attack aircraft (approximately $36 million and two Su-35 jets, each costing $85 million

According to information from the Ukrainian side, since the onset of the full-scale war on February 24, 2022, Ukrainian forces have downed as many as 335 Russian military aircraft.

"Russian losses are significant"

In an interview with Wirtualna Polska, Brigadier General (Ret.) pilot Dr. Jan Rajchel stated that the data provided by Ukraine should be viewed with some skepticism. "I cannot verify them, and at the start of the conflict, we encountered unconfirmed reports. However, these Russian losses are undeniably significant," he noted.

He believes the Russians engaged in this conflict following the standards of conducting a combined air operation, attempting to gain air superiority by neutralizing Ukrainian threats in the war's early hours. "This approach included targeting points crucial for aviation, but their failure to achieve immediate success led them to switch to ground operations. Without controlling the airspace or holding significant superiority, they suffered losses and faced setbacks early on," the expert recounted.

The interviewee highlighted that while there was a battle for air control, neither side achieved a decisive advantage. "The Russians experienced considerable losses, including helicopters and aircraft, over Ukrainian territory. This underscores how effectively the Ukrainians utilized the anti-aircraft defense systems provided by Western countries," he added.

"The Russians probably didn't expect such a maneuver"

Gen. Rajchel explained that as a result, the Russians curtailed such operations. "This year, we saw them rarely attacking Ukrainian positions, indicating the difficulty of achieving ground operation success without air superiority. When success was achieved, it came at a considerable cost," he said.

While the exact state of Ukrainian aviation remains unclear, the country's anti-aircraft defense, bolstered by its systems and those supplied by the West, is quite formidable. The expert pointed out that these systems were primarily deployed to defend urban areas and key infrastructure. "Yet, there might not have been enough anti-aircraft defense to cover all the most threatened areas in terms of ground operations," he added.

"Recent Russian losses likely stem from the Ukrainians reallocating some defense assets from protecting critical infrastructure to other locations. The Russians probably did not anticipate such a move," he suggested.

He observed that Russian aircraft, attempting to strike Ukrainian positions, had to venture within these combat systems' range, leading to losses. "It is evident that even the most advanced Russian technology struggles against modern anti-aircraft defenses," he concluded.

"F-16 is an excellent aircraft, but when it operates within the whole system"

When asked about the potential introduction of F-16s to Ukraine, Gen. Rajchel explained that such developments would likely be kept secret until their combat deployment, as Russian forces would prioritize targeting F-16 bases. "Whether the F-16s have already been used in combat remains unknown. If they had, it would probably be widely publicized, so it seems improbable at the moment," he said.

"The introduction of F-16 fighter jets could indeed be transformative, but it is difficult to claim they would change the war's outcome definitively," he stated. "The F-16 is an exceptional aircraft, particularly when integrated into a comprehensive system that includes early detection and guidance," he elaborated.

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