Russia’s air force faces a dire situation as it grapples with the loss of 90 aircraft in the ongoing Ukrainian Counteroffensive, causing significant challenges due to sanctions and prolonged warfare.
Kyiv, September 28, 2023 – Russia’s air force is grappling with a severe crisis as it has lost approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This staggering loss has left its remaining fleet facing significant challenges, compounded by the effects of sanctions and a war that has persisted far longer than the Kremlin initially anticipated.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has issued a dire assessment, indicating that the long-term tactical air power of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) is likely to degrade as the conflict continues. The MoD report highlights that the VKS has lost around 90 fixed-wing aircraft in combat since February 2022. Additionally, it notes that some of its combat aircraft have been operating at a much higher intensity than during peacetime.
This increased usage is taking a toll on the projected lifespan of these aircraft. The report suggests that Russia is wearing out its airframes at a much faster rate than originally planned, further exacerbated by a shortage of spare parts due to international sanctions and growing demand.
The Kremlin initially believed that its “special military operation” in Ukraine would be a short-lived endeavor, but the prolonged conflict has led to significant wear and tear on its airframes, impacting the VKS’s long-term tactical air power. However, the MoD warns that the VKS still possesses the capability to increase sortie rates over occupied Ukrainian territories.
While the effectiveness of Russian aviation has been limited due to Ukrainian air defenses, Moscow has made efforts to increase combat sorties. Nevertheless, the daily rate of combat sorties by the VKS remains substantially lower than at the beginning of the war.
The MoD does not provide a detailed breakdown of the types of aircraft lost, but independent monitoring by Oryx has identified several categories, including:
- 80 combat aircraft, including Su-25 close air support aircraft, Su-34 strike aircraft, and Su-30SM multirole aircraft.
- Three strategic bombers, including Tu-22M3s and Tu-95MS.
- Two Command and Control Aircraft (Il-22(M)).
- Six transport aircraft, including Il-76s and An-26.
Very interesting.— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) August 31, 2023
– "The infrared image would mean these were likely bomblets dropped from a drone or drones under local man-in-the-loop control unless the source of the image was acting as an observation drone to record the strike, which seems unlikely."
– "This would fit… https://t.co/U32QVSmZ5b pic.twitter.com/gO2sdviXpI
Remarkably, from February 24, 2022, to August 17, 2023, approximately 21.7 percent of Russia’s confirmed losses of manned aircraft were attributed to system malfunctions, pilot errors, friendly fire, or accidents unrelated to direct combat with Ukraine. This highlights the need for improved maintenance practices and pilot training in the Russian air force.
Ukraine has also made notable strides in targeting Russian planes with drones, damaging several aircraft and air defense systems in recent attacks.
In conclusion, Russia’s air force is grappling with a severe crisis, having lost 90 aircraft in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. This situation, exacerbated by sanctions and prolonged warfare, poses significant challenges to its remaining fleet and long-term air power capabilities.