Ukraine Air Force
Ukraine's air and air defence forces have been almost completely destroyed, and the country's navy has in effect ceased to exist, according to the chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy. "At present, the Ukrainian Air Force and the system of air defences have been almost completely destroyed," the officer said 25 March 2022.
Ukraine's ability to keep flying air force jets after Russia's February 2022 attack was a visible demonstration of the country's resilience in the face of attack and has been a morale booster, both to its own military and Ukraine's people. It has also led to mythologising of the Ukrainian air force, including a tale about a Ukrainian jet fighter that purportedly single-handedly downed six Russian aircrafts, dubbed online as "The Ghost of Kyiv."
It is a story that gives courage and hope to the people of Ukraine in these dark days: The military has put up a fierce fight against the Russian invasion, and one very exceptional fighter pilot has become a folk hero. Known only as the "Ghost of Kyiv," he is said to have single-handedly brought down six Russian planes since the invasion began. The story has mostly spread via social media, with videos and photos that appear to show the pilot in action posted by Kyiv residents, former President Petro Poroshenko and the Defense Ministry. Some of the photos are clearly not genuine. The existence of a Ukrainian fighter pilot who shot down six Russian planes cannot be confirmed.
Ukraine’s air force modernisation has been marginal and aviation remains the weak spot of Ukraine’s defence capacity. Most of the country’s bombers and fighter jets are more than 30 years old, and pilots are poorly trained and poorly paid. This is why, if Russia decided to attack, and uses its planes correctly, the air support should quickly give them a decisive advantage, despite all the modernisation of the Ukrainian army.
Ukraine’s acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh described the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces as “unsatisfactory” in his 12 March 2014 report to the acting president. Tenyukh said recent exercises demonstrated a “dismal degree of preparedness among servicemen and lack of military specialists, equipment and weapons” in the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy. “Out of 507 combat planes and 121 attack helicopters, only 15 percent are serviceable,” the report read [presumably the report meant military or comabat helicopter rather than attack]. “Because of poor training of crews, only 10 percent of them are capable of performing combat tasks.”
The defense chief was reported by RIA Novosti to have said only 6,000 people out of 41,000 currently serving in the armed forces “are prepared to perform combat tasks” [published sources in the West attribute about 130,000 personnel to the Ukrainian armed forces, with over 70,000 in the Ground Forces alone, while some 45,000 are reported in the Air Force].
Ukraine inherited from the former Soviet Union assets that make the Ukrainian air force the third largest in the world. Its inventory includes longrange bombers, transport planes, strike aircraft, reconnaissance and electronic warfare planes, a large contingent of tactical and air defense fighters and training aircraft. By 1995 the former four air armies are being restructured into three aviation groups and one naval aviation group. Air force personnel will be cut from its 1992 strength of 86,000 to 25,000 by 1999, while the inventory of 1,380 combat planes would be reduced to 1,090 in 1995 and to 590 by 1999. The air defense contingent is being reshaped from one air defense army and three corps into three air defense corps, and its strength will be reduced from its present 67,000 to 26,000 personnel.
The Command of The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is the military control body of the branch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In early 2005, the armed forces of Ukraine have moved to a "trividovu" structure — Army, Navy and Air Force. The main purpose of the establishment of this new type was determined by increasing the level of effectiveness of the tasks inherent in both military - Air Forces, and Air Defence Forces - by eliminating duplicative controls the overall process of protecting domestic airspace.
The Air Force of Ukraine is an essential part of the Ukrainian AF combat potential. This highly maneuverable component of the Ukrainian Armed Forces together with Air Defence Troops is assigned to protect the country's air space, defeat enemy forces in the air, perform friendly forces air support, air assault missions, troops and materiel airlift and air reconnaissance.
The main purpose of the Ukrainian Air Force reform and development is the establishment of a mission ready and small force, capable of effectively fulfilling assigned missions. It is planned to achieve this goal by: improving the structure of formations and units, improving their location, maintaining their combat potential, enhancing pilots flight skills and by modernization of military equipment.
The main task of The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reforming and development is the creation of effective, personnel moderate aircraft force with high feasibility of allotted tasks. The achievement of this goal is planning to carry out by the improvement of organizational structure and strength, to support optimum deployment, to maintain battle potential, raising the level of aircrews skills and modernization of aircraft basic types, armaments and air supply means.
The Air Force of Ukraine is designed for: delivering air strikes at enemy units, winning operational air superiority, units and facilities, cover against enemy air strikes, air support to the Land Force and the Navy, disruption in military and state management, damage of communication, support by air reconnaissance, air drop, troops and cargo transportation by air.
By the Decree of the President of Ukraine the Air Force Day (pilots professional holiday) is celebrated annually on the last Saturday in August. The Air Force of Ukraine is one of the important guarantees to the state's integrity and independence. The Force secures safely the airspace of Ukraine.
In 1997 the Program of establishment and development of The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of the period till 2005 was worked out and approved by Minister of Defence of Ukraine. In 2000 the Program of reforming and development of The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of the period till 2005 was worked out and approved by Minister of Defence of Ukraine, according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine 927/2000 dated 28.07.2000.
By 1999 a Ukrainian air force pilot flew a mere 40 percent of the 100-110 hours required by the standard training fly program. This is really a small number in comparison with NATO's standard of 150 to 220 flight hours. The bulk of young pilots had flown a mere 100-200 hours, as against the minimum 1,000 hours a first category pilot used to fly in Soviet times. Only a fraction of air force crews, i.e. around 40 per cent of pilots, were ready to carry out combat missions. The normative ratio of pilots to aircraft is 1.5:1.
According to unofficial data, the average pilot in the Air Force of Ukraine in 2010 flew only 17 hours, which is extremely low. By 2012, the situation in the Ukrainian air force had significantly improved. The average pilot flying time had significantly increased in comparison with previous indicators and amounted to an average of 42 hours a pilot For comparison, the average annual duration of pilot in the Air Force of Russia for the same period amounted to 100-120 hours, and NATO was 120–180 hours.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces continued to advertise improvements in combat training in 2012. The Air Forces commander reported that the flight time for aircrew tripled since 2011, to eleven thousand hours, for an average of 47 flight hours per crewmember, with personnel in selected units receiving an average of 60 flight hours during the year. Armed Forces’ personnel also performed 38,000 parachute jumps, the highest figure for last 20 years and 2.5 times greater than the 15,000 jumps performed in 2011. During Exercise Perspective 2012 the airborne troops used the new Ukrainian Krylo parachute system, which allows jumps from a height of 4,000 meters. Several mothballed Mikoyan Mig-29 Fulcrum fourth-generation fighter jets were returned to combat service in western Ukraine, the country's Defense Ministry said on 04 April 2014. "Specialists of our team have already returned several planes to service," the ministry quoted an unnamed commander of an Air Force unit near Ivano-Frankivsk as saying. "We are now conducting test flights. Soon, more mothballed fighter jets will take off again."
The state of Ukraine's armed forces came under close scrutiny when the new government took office in late February 2014, after months of violent uprising. Kiev launched extensive combat readiness checks of its armed forces in early March, following Crimea's announcement that it was ready to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in his report to the president that the checks revealed "unsatisfactory" condition of the armed forces. He said that out of 507 combat planes and 121 attack helicopters, only 15 percent were serviceable. Air Force crews lack proper training and only 10 percent of them were capable of performing combat tasks.
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