Rafale, Gripen or F-15: which fighter will get Ukraine?
Soviet period park
March month was marked by an unpleasant incident for the Ukrainian Air Force captain rammed a towed MiG-29 front-line fighter from the 40th tactical aviation brigade of the Air Force in a Volkswagen car. As a result, the tail of the winged machine was engulfed in flames. It is noteworthy that the incident was widely discussed in the West: in particular, the famous publication The Drive wrote about it. The plane, as experts noted then, it cant restored to previous version.
By the way, the history of the aircraft is quite indicative. It was built at the Moscow Aviation Production in 1990, in 1992 it went to Ukraine. The plane was based in Crimea: after 2014, the Russians returned it to the Ukrainian side. Subsequently, the aircraft was upgraded to the level of the MiG-29MU1 at the Lviv State Aviation Repair Plant.
“The modernization of the fighter has made it possible to increase the detection range of air targets, to increase the accuracy of the aircraft to a given point and to expand the possibilities for monitoring and recording the functional parameters of the technical condition of the aircraft, engines and a number of on-board systems.”
According to data from open sources, the aircraft was equipped with an SN-3307 satellite navigation system receiver integrated into the avionics, replaced the N019-09 receiver unit of the N019 onboard radar, and made a number of other improvements. Now it is possible to use medium-range air-to-air missiles R-27ER1 and R-27ET1. Products that are obsolete, but not so much up-gradation happened.
As in the case of the Su-27P1M and Su-27S1M, we are talking about a super-budget modernization, which is more like its imitation. Both the MiG-29MU1 and the Su-27-1M are all the same Soviet combat vehicles that refer to the 70s. At one time, Russia was engaged in such “modernization” in the case of the Su-27SM, but rather quickly realized the futility of the undertaking, directing resources to the purchase of new combat vehicles.
The Russian experience is not applicable to Ukraine. Firstly, the country does not have its own production of combat aircraft, except for military transport aviation. And secondly (and this is perhaps more important), there is no such economy that can allow ukraine to build an aircraft on its own.
In a sense, the country is stumped by its politicians, because it makes no sense to use aircraft from the Cold War era in a war (even a local one), and there is simply no money for modern weapons.
Will the West help?
Further modernization of the old Soviet technology is meaningless. Presumably, both Ukraine and the West understand this. Moreover, the latter, paradoxically, are better aware of the dire situation. In March, the French edition of Intelligence Online wrote in the article “Race on between Rafale and FA-18 to replace Ukraine’s MiG” that France was ready to offer Dassault Rafale fighters. Allegedly, this will generally be the main topic of the agenda of the planned visit of French president Emanuel Macron to Ukraine in the first half of 2021.
“The French President believes in Rafale’s chances of winning in this former stronghold of Russian industry. Paris has an advantage: its commercial system already exists to support such a contract. “
According to source, the French government is ready to provide government guarantees for a loan in the amount of 85% of the contract price. Funds in the amount of one and a half billion euros are allegedly already reserved.
The first batch may include 6-12 aircraft with delivery time by 2025. It is noteworthy that these figures coincide with the plans of Ukraine itself for the initial rearmament of its Air Force. In total, according to the plan approved by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine in 2020, by 2030 at least two Ukrainian aviation brigades of tactical aviation should be completely re-equipped with new winged aircraft.
By 2035, Ukrainian aviation should have:
– At least 4 tactical aviation brigades armed with a modern, unified 4 ++ generation multi-role fighter;
– At least 4 brigades (regiments) of unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft;
– a brigade of transport and special aviation;
– training aviation brigade.
To simplify as much as possible, then Ukraine wants to have 70-100 modern multipurpose aircraft instead of MiG-29, Su-27, Su-24 and Su-25, including their modernized versions.
They want to allocate 200 billion hryvnias ( 7.4 billion dollars) to re-equip tactical aviation. To understand the “seriousness” of the situation, suffice it to say that total military spending for 2021 was planned at about 267 billion hryvnias. This amount is almost 6% GDP of Ukraine, which is definitely a lot.
In general, even with the naked eye, one can see the gap between plans and reality. For even greater clarity, you can specify the price of one Dassault Rafale. With the supply of aircraft to India, the price for one aircraft was 240 Million dollars. But Indian version was specially modified so there is a major chance Ukraine may go for used one.
Let’s talk about alternatives to French “help”. The Swedish JAS 39E / F will cost less, but it is still a very expensive aircraft with an AFAR radar and advanced technical characteristics against the background of the usual Saab JAS 39 Gripen. It is noteworthy that during a recent speech at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, the Commander of the Air Force, Colonel-General Sergei Drozdov, said that Ukraine wants F-35 from USA. The military, however, noted that this can be expected at the second stage of rearmament: the first involves the purchase of fighters of the type of the aforementioned Gripen or F-15 (perhaps its newest version, the Eagle II).
It is theoretically possible to purchase the Chinese Chengdu J-10, the export price of which, according to the media, is in the region of $ 40 million per unit.
In general, it must be admitted that the American and European aircraft are too expensive for Ukraine. And the rearmament of the country’s air force, if it takes place, will be associated with the supply of equipment from “third” countries: Turkey (you can recall the famous Bayraktar-s) or China.