Courageous Ukrainian pilots getting the better of Russian jets despite 5x fewer planes

Ukraine: Russia fails to establish clear 'command and control'

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Despite their numerical inferiority and being given little chance, the Ukrainian Air Force has kept flying and has denied Russia superiority in the skies. Although some analysts predicted Kyiv’s air force would only last days at the start of the conflict, they are proving a dogged opponent.

However, risks persist as with only 60 percent of their planes still available, Ukrainian pilots have no time for pre-take off flight checks and in a dogfight their chances of survival are slim.

They have managed to slow the Russian invasion down considerably and caused the invasion to stall as without air superiority Vladimir Putin’s troops are unable to venture beyond entrenched positions.

One pilot Andriy told The New York Times that there was “no equality” when taking on Russian jets in combat due to their numerical superiority.

He said: “I don’t do any checks. I just take off.

“Every time when I fly, it’s for a real fight. In every fight with Russian jets, there is no equality. They always have five times more planes in the air. 

“I mostly have tasks of hitting airborne targets, of intercepting enemy jets. 

“I wait for the missile to lock on to my target. After that, I press ‘fire’. 

“I am happy that this plane will no longer bomb my peaceful towns. And as we see in practice, that is exactly what Russian jets do.

“I had situations when I was approaching a Russian plane to a close enough distance to target and fire. 

“I could already detect it, but was waiting for my missile to lock on while at the same time from the ground they told me that a missile was fired at me already.” 

In the build up to the invasion it was estimated that Russia had 300 combat aircraft ready to conduct sorties into Ukraine out of a fleet of 1,300. 

Ukraine claims to have downed 97 fixed wing aircraft, although experts argue this may be overoptimistic.

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It does appear that after initial heavy losses with 10 or 11 lost one weekend forcing Russia to reduce the number of forays. 

Justin Bronk, a research fellow in airpower and technology at the Royal United Services Institute, said that Russia’s inability to knock out Ukraine’s air defence systems was the biggest setback for the Kremlin rather than Ukrainian pilots. 

He told The Telegraph: “As I understand it, Ukraine is not flying that many missions in fixed-wing fast jets. 

“What the Russians have still been unable to do is knock out the Sam [surface-to-air missile] systems, which means they have to fly around at either very low altitude or very high altitude.”

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