According to TASS, citing a “military-diplomatic source,” Ukraine’s Air Force has been practically eliminated by Russia’s Aerospace Forces and air defense systems.
“The entire qualified operating personnel of Ukraine’s former air force – of Mig-29, Su-27, and Su-25 aircraft – have been practically eliminated by the effective actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the air defense systems,” the source said.
But reports by news outlets that aren’t run by the Kremlin suggest otherwise. On Saturday, the Ukrainian Air Force Command reported that on Friday, the anti-aircraft missile units of the Air Force of Ukraine downed a helicopter (type unknown), and destroyed three operative-tactical unmanned aerial vehicles.
Also on Saturday, Kris Osborn asked in the National Interest why Russia is still unable to achieve air supremacy six months into the war, suggesting Russia’s inability to achieve air supremacy in the skies above Ukraine remains difficult to explain. “Certainly, given that the Russian Air Force operates more than 700 fighter jets to Ukraine’s roughly sixty-four fighters, it should have been relatively easy for Moscow to dominate Ukraine’s skies. Yet why has this not occurred?”
On Sunday, the BothSidesNews reported that rocket artillery units confirmed the loss of 35 Russian soldiers as part of firing missions last Saturday. Apparently, the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed two Russian ammunition depots and one supply point in southern Ukraine. In addition to losing 35 soldiers, the Russians lost a howitzer, a NONA self-propelled mortar system, and nine vehicles.
According to Air Force Monthly, in 2007, the Ukrainian Air Force and Air Defense forces had 36,300 personnel and 225 aircraft.
Many Ukrainian air defense facilities were destroyed or damaged in the first days of the invasion by Russian air strikes. On February 24 this year, Russian forces attacked the Chuhuiv air base, that stocked Bayraktar TB2 drones. The attack caused damage to fuel storage areas and infrastructure. The next day, Ukrainian forces attacked the Millerovo air base. On February 27, Russia reportedly fired 9K720 Iskander missiles from Belarus at the civilian Zhytomyr Airport. Russia fired many cruise and ballistic missiles at the principal Ukrainian ground-based early warning radars, blinding the Ukrainian Air Force to their air activity. Additionally, craters in the operating surfaces at the major Ukrainian air bases hindered Ukrainian aircraft movements, and several Ukrainian long-range S-300P surface-to-air missile batteries were destroyed.
This Russian aggressiveness continued, month in and month out, and yet by June 2022, Russia had not achieved air superiority and lost an estimated 165 combat aircraft, approximately 10% of its frontline combat strength. Western commentators attribute the poor performance of Russian aviation to the extensive ground-based anti-aircraft capabilities of the Ukrainians, much of it care of Uncle Sam.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry launched a social media campaign called, “I have a Dream,” in which it lists it’s the aircraft it would like to receive from its Western allies:
I have a dream.
… to protect the sky of civilization.
? libkos pic.twitter.com/0GIBiu3LAZ
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) August 27, 2022
Osborn noted that senior Pentagon officials believe it’s the Ukrainian fighters’ sheer intensity and morale, combined with the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defenses, together with the impact of the hesitant, risk-averse Russian Generals that play in Kiev’s favor. But even with all those factors, Russia should be able by now to turn its overwhelming superiority in numbers in the air into air supremacy, six months into the war. They don’t, which means they can’t.
Nevertheless, TASS insists that Ukraine is doing so badly in the air, that it was forced to send poorly trained air cadets on combat sorties which led to “catastrophic losses among the remnants of the Ukrainian aviation.” The agency further cited its military-diplomatic source, who said that attempts to recruit more pilots in Poland and other Eastern European countries were not successful, and “the few who agreed are already in the grave or hospitals.”
It goes to show that fake news is a dish best served with borscht.