Since the beginning of this year, the situation on the border between Russia and Ukraine has been very tense. There is a huge possibility Russia could go into a war against Ukraine.
In modern warfare, especially land warfare, mastering air supremacy is crucial. In the struggle for air supremacy, the offensive of air force fighters will play a key role, rather than the defense of ground air defense systems. So what are the strengths of the Russian and Ukrainian air forces today?
Strength of the Russian Air Force
After 1991, the Russian Air Force experienced a difficult period of more than ten years. However, since 2010, the development of the Russian Air Force has obviously entered the fast lane. At present, the new models of the Russian Air Force fighters in service after 2010 are: Mainly, such as Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-57, etc., these newly commissioned fighters account for more than 50% of the Russian Air Force’s fighters. From the perspective of the composition and scale of the Russian Air Force, the Russian Air Force is still one of the few offensive air forces in the world, and the offensive air force is actually the guarantee for seizing air supremacy.
At present, the Russian Air Force has nearly 1,000 fourth-generation fighter jets. The largest number is the Su-34 fighter-bomber. In fact, the Su-34 has been in service as early as 2007, but mass production began in 2010. At present, the number of Su-34 fighter bombers of the Russian Air Force is about 150, and 76 more were purchased last year. In the future, the number of Su-34s of the Russian Air Force will exceed 200. The reason why the Russian Air Force is equipped with a large number of Su-34s is that the outstanding performance of the Su-34s in the previous Syrian battlefield has been recognized by the Russian Air Force.
Let’s move toward Su-30SM. This fighter is actually the self-use version of the exported Su-30MKI, but the overall performance of the Su-30SM is half a generation ahead of the Su-30MKI, reaching the standard of 4.5th generations. At present, the Russian Air Force is equipped with more than 100 Su-30SM. In addition, the Russian Air Force has more than 100 Su-35, the latest forth-generation fighter. In terms of early forth-generation aircraft, the Russian Air Force is currently equipped with about 400 Su-27, Su-30, MiG-29 and MiG-35 fighter jets. In addition, although the Su-57 fighter jets of the Russian Air Force have not been mass-produced, they have been tested in Syria, and several of the fighter jets that are currently in service are capable of actual combat.
In addition to fighter jets, the Russian Air Force also has a large-scale strategic bomber fleet. At present, the Russian military has three types of strategic bombers, including 16 Tu-160 strategic bombers, 42 Tu-95 strategic bombers, and 62 Tu-22M3 supersonic strategic bombers. In terms of early warning aircraft, which are crucial to seizing air supremacy, the Russian Air Force currently has about 20 Beriev A-50 series of early warning aircraft. In addition, the Russian Air Force also has a “secret force”, that is, nearly a hundred MiG-31 interceptors. This extremely fast fighter jet can launch a surprise attack at a safe distance after carrying the Russian “Dagger” hypersonic missile. A quick strike can be described as an ace in the Russian Air Force’s offensive!
Strength of the Ukrainian Air Force
Ukraine once had a formidable air force. During the Cold War, Ukraine was at the forefront of the Soviet Union’s confrontation with NATO. Therefore, the Soviet Union assembled a large number of military forces in Ukraine. After 1991, Ukraine obtained more than 1,100 fighters of various types, including more than 300 Su-27 fighters and 19 Tu-160 fighters. Bombers, at that time there were more Ukrainian Tu-160s than Russia! In the early 1990s, the strength of the Ukrainian Air Force once ranked fourth in the world. If you look at the strategic strike capability, the strength of the Ukrainian Air Force can be squeezed into the top three!
Nowadays, many people think that the main reason why the Ukrainian Air Force is poorly equipped, because of disposing of all strategic bombers and scrapping most of the fighter jets, is Ukraine has no funds to maintain these huge weapons and equipment. In fact, this is only one of the reasons. Naturally, Ukraine could not afford so many heavy equipments, but it was still possible to retain some of the fighters and bombers.
Under the current tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border, Ukraine has been trying to find ways to improve its national defense capabilities, including upgrading the existing fleet of the Air Force. However, such small upgrades have limited improvement in the performance of fighter aircraft. The key is that the size of the Ukrainian Air Force is too small. At present, the Ukrainian Air Force has less than 100 forth-generation aircraft. These forth-generation aircraft are still the early Su-27 and MiG-29, and there are dozens of third-generation Su-24 and Su-25 attack aircraft. This is the main aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force today.
Ukraine has no strength to compete with Russia
Under the current strengths of the Russian and Ukrainian Air Forces, if a war breaks out between the two sides, the Ukrainian Air Force is basically useless. First of all, the offensive capability of the Russian Air Force is too strong. The Tu-160 strategic bomber can carry X-101 and X-101 with a range of several thousand kilometers. The -102 long-range cruise missile can launch air strikes on targets such as airports in Ukraine over the hinterland of Russia. Ukraine has no power to fight back against such a strike and can only passively defend itself.
Even the Ukrainian Air Force does not have a decent air defense system. The advanced air defense system is the S300V. The Russian army knows this air defense system very well. During the war, the Russian army can dispatch electronic fighters to suppress it. It is still a problem whether the radars of these air defense systems in Ukraine can be turned on normally.
The Russian Air Force currently has a new attack method, which is the combination of the MiG-31 fighter jet and the “Dagger” hypersonic missile mentioned above. The MiG-31 can quickly reach the launch position after carrying this missile, while the “Dagger” “Hypersonic missiles have a speed of up to Mach 10 and a range of thousands of kilometers. Judging from Ukraine’s current air defense capabilities, they are basically useless against hypersonic targets. Therefore, the Russian Air Force does not need to contact the Ukrainian Air Force head-on. Just this long-range strike is enough to seriously damage all bases of the Ukrainian Air Force.
Even if the fighters face each other, the performance of the Ukrainian Air Force has no advantage. The Russian Air Force has hundreds of new fighters such as Su-30SM and Su-35. These fighters are equipped with phased array radar and advanced air combat weapons, such as those carried by the Su-35. The “Snow Leopard-E” passive phased array radar has a maximum detection range of 400 kilometers, while the Su-27 of the Ukrainian Air Force still uses pulse Doppler radar.
The Russian Air Force fighters have superior performance. With the assistance of early warning aircraft, the Ukrainian Air Force fighter jets in front of the Russian Air Force are basically equivalent to the Yugoslav Air Force fighter jets in front of the NATO Air Force in 1999, if one takes off, one will be shot down.
Since 2016, the Russian Air Force has introduced more than 100 new fighters for many years. At the same time, it has also continuously developed weapon systems such as air-launched hypersonic missiles, which have greatly improved its attack capabilities. The current Russian Air Force has recovered. , once again one of the most powerful air forces in the world! The number of Russian forth-generation aircraft is 9 times that of Ukraine, and Ukraine is too close to Russia. At this distance, the difficulty of the Russian Air Force’s attack is even less than the difficulty of entering Syria in 2015. In the face of today’s Russian Air Force, the Ukrainian Air Force is difficult to achieve sucess.