The bravery and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance to a brutal Russian invasion has stirred the world. Ukrainian air power consists of veteran Soviet types fortified with modern unmanned aircraft. Against the odds their air force still flies and still fights. These are 10 types operated by the Ukrainian armed forces in 2022.
The Leleka-100 is a small multi-role UAV operated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2015, largely in the battlefield reconnaissance role. Its inertial navigation system is vital for reliable operations in GPS-denied environments. It can carry the usual electro-optical and infra-red gimballed sensors. It is one of the most used drones of its class in the Ukrainian Army and has the most flight hours of any Ukrainian UAV.
9. Antonov An-30
A Beriev-led development of the An-24, the Antonov An-30 was produced in Kyiv. The type has proved useful for longer-ranged reconnaissance missions.
8. Sukhoi Su-24
Whereas the F-111 and (non-German) Tornado have all but gone, the Soviet equivalent, the Su-24 lingers on. Fast, long-ranged and with a large bombload it remains a credible attack aircraft.
7. Tupolev Tu-141/143
A fighter-sized Soviet drone rocket-launched from a ramp, the Tu-141 and 143 are jet-propelled reconnaissance aircraft bought back into service following the 2014 invasion. Originally, they parachute-landed whereupon recorded intelligence footage was harvested from tapes, but they have been locally upgraded by university students to provide real-time video. Last week a rogue Tu-141 crashed in Croatia, reports that it may have had an attached bomb may be correct or may just be misidentified boost rocket launcher fuel residue and structural elements of the booster itself.
6. UA Dynamics Punisher/Spectre
Working in a hunter/killer relationship, the Spectre/Punisher drones are compact yet able to reach a relatively long distance to deliver a disproportionate effect against invading forces and their supply line. As in much modern warfare, unmanned aircraft have provided a flexible form of harassment attack at little cost in money and little risk of human loss to its operators.
5. Mil Mi-24
The Mi-24 suffered heavier losses than any other Ukrainian type in the 2014 Russian invasion. Since 2014, the type’s survivability and night-fighting capabilities have been improved.
4. Sukhoi Su-25
The stalwart of both sides in the Ukraino-Russian War, the Su-25 is a tough battlefield support aircraft born of the Soviet era. Ukraine held on to over 90 Su-25s following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Ukrainian Su-25 development has gone its own way since around 2003, with MiGremont in Zaporizhzhia (at the time of writing Zaporizhzhia was under attack from Russia; earlier Russian attacks had caused a fire at the nuclear power plant). MiGremont upgraded and refurbished Su-25s, the resultant Su-25M1K and -UM1Ks featured enhanced navigation and weapon aiming aids as well as new defensive countermeasures. Following the high loss rate of Ukrainian Su-25s in the Russian 2014 invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, countermeasures were further enhanced with the addition of new chaff and flare dispensers scabbed onto the top of the rear engine nacelles.
3. Sukhoi Su-27
The most capable air superiority platform in Ukrainian service is the Su-27. Its larger range and weapon load than the MiG-29 grants the ‘Flanker’ significantly more combat persistence. Ukraine had almost 70 ‘Flanker’s at the nation’s birth. The current variant, the Su-27P1M and Su-27UB1M contains some equipment unique to Ukrainian ‘Flankers’. In the air-to-air role aircraft it is armed with a 30-mm cannon, as well as up to ten R-27 and R-73 missiles.
2. Baykar Bayraktar TB2
The Bayrakter TB2 armed drone was the inspiration for the song of the same name, a patriotic pop song that celebrates the success of the Turkish-built aircraft and mocks the Russian invaders. Ukraine has between 12-25 TB-2s and it has proved extremely effective against armoured vechicles.
- Mikoyan MiG-29
A survivor of the Soviet era, much of the MiG-29‘s use is the exact type of mission it was designed for (if not with the intended opponent) – the short-range defensive tactical fighter role. In this role in 2022 it has gained a semi-mythical status as ‘The Ghost of Kyiv‘, a MiG-29 said to have shot down multiple Russian aircraft.
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