Russian Air Power Is Still 'Significantly' Underperforming Against Ukrainian Defence, UK Says

Even as Moscow tries to renews its offences, pushing its air force would lead to "unsustainable aircraft losses", the MoD claimed.
Vladimir Putin and a Russian helicopter shot down by Ukrainian forces
Vladimir Putin and a Russian helicopter shot down by Ukrainian forces

Russia has officially upped its aggression against Ukraine again, after several weeks of “quieter activity” – but its air power is still underperforming, according to UK intelligence.

Now spring – and the one-year-anniversary of the Russian invasion – is just around the corner, Moscow appears to have renewed its attacks once again, even hitting Lviv, in western Ukraine, this week.

According to the UK’s ministry of defence (MoD), “Russian sortie rates have increased over the last week, following several weeks of quieter activity”.

The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) is expected to deploy a “similar number of aircraft in support of the Ukraine operation as they have for many months”.

And the MoD noticed that “air activity is now roughly in line with the average daily rate seen since summer 2022.”

But, that doesn’t mean air power is up to scratch.

“Overall, Russian air power continues to significantly underperform in the war, constrained by a continued high threat from Ukrainian air defences and dispersed based due to the threat of strikes against Russian airfields,” the intelligence officials claimed.

Ukraine has been very effective in shooting down missiles before they attack cities throughout the war.

In recent months, it has believed to have upped its own offensive measures too, by launching air strikes which reach into territory Russia has claimed as its own, like Crimea – although Kyiv has not ever taken responsibility for these attacks.

The MoD continued: “Russian combat jets operate almost exclusively over Russian-held territory, preventing them from carrying out their key strike role effectively.

“Across Russia, the VKS likely maintains a largely intact fleet of approximately 1,500 crewed military aircraft, despite losing over 130 since the start of the invasion.”

Russia has sustained significant losses of manpower, with Moscow resorting to partial mobilisation and recruiting convicts along with private paramilitaries like the Wagner Group.

And, though its army doubled in size, so too did its number of casualties, according to Forbes.

The MoD added: “It is unlikely that the VKS is currently preparing for a dramatically expanded air campaign as under the current battlefield circumstances it would likely suffer unsustainable aircraft losses.”

It comes after Russian president Vladimir Putin allegedly hit out at his country’s deputy prime minister, who is also responsible for defence operations, for “fooling around”.

Putin has repeatedly urged the defence industry to offer better support for the “special military operation” – the name the Kremlin insists on using to describe its war in Ukraine.

Then the deputy security council chairman Dmitry Medvedev called for an increase in Russian tank production while visiting a construction plant.

Notably, the West has just agreed to send some of its own top tanks to Ukraine to give it an advantage over Russia, which still uses Soviet-era tanks.

Renewed efforts to target Ukraine from the sky may accelerate Kyiv’s bid for Western fighter jets, too.

However, the UK’s defence secretary Ben Wallace have indicated that – while it happily handed over Leopard tanks recently – these jets are not likely to reach Ukraine for years.


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