Su-35s ruling the skies, we lose many aircraft to them – Ukrainian

Imagine being a Ukrainian Air Force [UAF] pilot, flying a Soviet-era plane against the powerful Russian Air Force. This prompts a plea for F-16s from allies. The Ukrainians’ Su-25s, from the 1980s, cannot compete with Russia’s advanced Su-35s. The Su-35s, with their modern radars and missiles, pose a significant challenge to the older Ukrainian fleet.

Russia will unveil the export Sukhoi Su-57E fighter in India - Su-35 fighter jet
Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

Oleksyi, also known as “Pumba”, is a Su-25 pilot who often encounters Russia’s Su-35 fighters. He shared his experiences with CNN, revealing many aircraft are lost to these interceptors. “We lose many aircraft to these interceptors,” he admits, his voice carrying the weight of their harrowing predicament. 

Having faced a year and a half of war since Russia’s invasion, Oleksyi and his fellow pilots have suffered numerous losses. Each day is a reminder of the fallen comrades, emphasizing their ongoing aerial battles. With a heavy heart, Pumba recounts, “I watched as my squadron leader and my wingman fell in battle. They are true Ukrainian heroes.” 

Despite the odds, Pumba is among the handful of valiant pilots still soaring through the skies for the Ukrainian Air Force. As the tides of war shift, the pivotal role of these audacious assault aviation pilots, Pumba included, comes into sharp focus. 

Even though the Ukrainian Air Force is facing a formidable Russian adversary, they’re persistently providing vital support to their ground troops. This crucial backing is propelling the counteroffensive forward, despite the overwhelming odds.

entire Slovak MiG-29 fleet gifted to Ukraine
Photo credit: Novinite

Undeniably, the Russian Air Force is currently ruling the skies on the battlefield with an iron fist. In a recent revelation, a high-ranking Ukrainian authority voiced his concerns about Russia’s formidable Su-35s. He described these cutting-edge fighter jets as a tool enabling Russia to steadily increase its control over the contested airspace above eastern Ukraine. 

He further lamented that Ukraine’s outdated Soviet-era aircraft are sadly lacking in the advanced capabilities needed to effectively counter this intimidating aerial force. 

“Spas,” a deputy battalion commander from the 128 Separate Territorial Defense Brigade, paints a vivid picture of the unyielding aerial assaults by Russian aviation. He likens them to the relentless waves of conflict witnessed in historical war zones like Vietnam and Afghanistan.

As helicopters and airplanes buzz across the sky in a relentless ballet of activity, it clearly illustrates the urgent call for robust aviation support. 

CNN reports that Ukraine’s air fleet has received a much-needed boost, thanks to NATO and its European allies, who have supplied a total of 45 Su-25s and MiG-29s. But the Ukrainian Air Force’s plight isn’t simply a game of numbers. 

In a candid conversation with a US-based media outlet, a MiG-29 pilot, who goes by the call sign “Juice”, emphasized that Western nations could give Ukraine a significant leg-up by providing the coveted F-16s. He underscored the pivotal role of advanced fighter aircraft in bolstering Ukraine’s aerial might.

Why F-16?

The Ukrainian pilot expressed a desire to fly the advanced, US-made F-16 fighter jets due to the limitations of their Su-25’s. Juice, the pilot, believed that F-16s could greatly improve the Ukrainian counteroffensive and increase the safety and effectiveness of ground personnel. Referring to the F-16s as a “game changer,” he highlighted their potential to strengthen Ukrainian forces and impact the direction of the war.

MiG-29 Fulcrum drops badass JDAM bombs but keeps failing - Mizokami
Photo credit: Getty Images

The F-16s have advanced features that could significantly affect Ukraine’s military operations.  MiG-29 pilot “Juice”, like his counterpart Pumba, notes the threat of Russian defenses and Su-35s. Nonetheless, he mentions that Ukraine has adjusted its tactics to counter these threats. 

Ukraine has achieved some victories by strategically avoiding risks and choosing optimal engagement times. However, this isn’t infallible, as the Russians are equally capable of adapting their strategies. 

Even with Western-provided missiles, the success rate isn’t perfect when used with current aircraft. Juice explains that due to range and precision limitations, Ukraine can only utilize about 25% of the potential of radar-targeting missiles like HARM.

The pilot emphasizes the need for high-tech jets like F-16s, which can launch more powerful missiles. Alex Hollings, a US marine, informed EurAsian Times about the limitations of Ukraine’s current aircraft usage. Likely, they use a “Pre-Briefed mode” for missile targeting.  He highlights that NATO’s F-16 is far superior, equipped to fully utilize the HARM’s capabilities and respond to nearby threats.  

Ukrainian pilots urgently seek a sizeable fighter jet fleet to improve their battlefield stance. They believe at least one squadron, or 12 to 20 jets, is necessary to address immediate ground challenges. Yet, for frontline and peaceful regional operations, they recommend three to four squadrons. According to Ukrainian officials, a fleet of over 100 jets is essential for long-term strategic planning and maintaining effectiveness.


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