Russia invaded Ukraine in February with an arsenal of advanced fighter planes, bombers and guided missiles, but significant combat losses in more than three weeks of fighting raise questions whether Moscow will ever fully dominate the skies.
The Ukrainian military is using a patchwork of Soviet-era air-defense batteries dating to the 1980s and modern, shoulder-launched missiles supplied by the U.S. and others in the West to inflict heavy losses on Russian combat planes and helicopters. The U.S. and others are rushing in extra anti-air systems to help restock Ukraine’s arsenal to punish Russia further.
The effort has led, at least temporarily, to a moderate lull in Russia air operations, Ukrainian military officials said. Russian officials in recent days have increasingly emphasized their use of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to attack targets in Ukraine.
The scale of Russian air losses is difficult to determine. Ukraine’s General Staff said Monday it had shot down or otherwise destroyed 97 Russian planes since the war started, along with 121 helicopters and 24 aerial drones. Oryx Blog, an open-source site that tracks military-equipment losses, says Russia has lost 15 planes, 34 helicopters, and 13 drones. Among the systems shot down are Russia’s advanced Su-34 strike fighters and Ka-52 attack helicopters, Oryx says. [Continue reading…]