PANAGYURISHTE ($1=1.95 Bulgarian Levs) — The expectations after February 24 were as follows – that Russia would disable Ukraine’s air defense systems in a short time. It kind of worked, but today we count the completion of that mission as a failure. Ukraine had and received from partner countries the Soviet S-300s. The US supplied [and continues to supply] low-altitude handheld systems such as the Stinger.
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Russia has fighter jets but no Suppression of Enemy Air Defense [SEAD] combat aircraft. Moscow plans to convert the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber into one in the future, but that doesn’t matter today.
The MiG-25BM Foxbat could have won the war in Ukraine if Moscow had not decided years ago to retire it. The decision was right, but the subsequent actions were wrong. The MiG-25BM Foxbat was a heavy and expensive aircraft. MiG-25 it set the record for the fastest military aircraft. It is a little-known fact that during all its combat missions not a single MiG-25BM was shot down.
This supersonic bomber, which crossed the Mach 3+ limit and was capable of twice the Armstrong limit, was the Soviet electronic warfare development. This was demonstrated against the top Western fighters of its era the F-14 and F-15 as well as the lighter F-4 and F-16 over a range of battlefields from Iraq and Iran to Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, and Pakistan.
The MiG-25BM Foxbat is one of the main reasons the US and China have developed special electronic warfare aircraft. US has Navy’s E/A-18G Growler and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s J-16D. However, Russia is ceasing production and retiring its aircraft without taking into account that today in Ukraine, it was the SEAD that would have won the war. Moscow is developing warplanes that are maneuverable, fast, and well-armed, but as the last few conflicts [Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan] show – a direct battle in the air between the planes does not happen. Today, these fighters and bombers are more computers than direct attack weapons.
Retired in the 90s
Russia deployed at least 40 MiG-25BM Foxbats to Belarus in the 80s. Then [the 90s], at that time in the newly created state, almost immediately all of them were retired. It was prohibitive for Belarus to maintain some of the highest operating costs of any tactical fighter aircraft in the world. Moscow at the same time refused to buy them back. At the time, Russia did not think it would ever go to war with NATO, and at that time Russia was facing military and economic decline.
The SEAD MiG-25BM countered by dropping multiple pods, silencing the enemy air defense system. Although an outdated piece of equipment, this aircraft had fuselage-mounted electronic warfare systems as well as outward-facing antennas. Today they would be an ideal means of suppressing the enemy’s air defense system.
Su-34 or J-16D
The war in Ukraine showed one thing – Russia never considered the possibility of jamming enemy air defense as a significant factor during the years of aircraft development. And Moscow may find itself in a paradoxical situation – the time for turning the Su-34 into a SEAD fighter relative to military action is so impossibly limited, I think it is more likely that Moscow will buy a small number of Chinese J-16D than rely on “its own muscles “. What funds Russia will invest in the development of this technology remains to be seen.
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