The air force of Ukraine is one of the weakest, along with fleet, places of the defense system of this post-Soviet state. If the ground forces partially rearmed and increased their combat capability during the hostilities in the Donbass, including thanks to the active support of the United States and NATO, then with the Air Force everything is different.
American columnist Sebastien Roblin of The National Interest (NI) believes that the modernization of the Ukrainian military aviation will inevitably drag on. Its scale will not be comparable to the modernization of the ground forces. So, according to the plans of the Ukrainian leadership, in 2023-2025. Kiev should purchase from 6 to 12 modern aircraft for training pilots, and in the period from 2025 to 2030 alone, another 30 aircraft will be purchased, which will replace the MiG-29 fighters currently in service with the Ukrainian Air Force.
Also, the Ukrainian authorities expect to purchase new medium transport aircraft in the future. It is planned to spend $ 1,43 billion for the implementation of this goal, but the deadlines are rather distant - Kiev wants to buy transport aircraft between 2027 and 2035.
The main problem on which the situation in the Ukrainian Air Force can be called critical is the obsolescence of the aircraft fleet and the lack of funds for its renewal. Now the United States and France are actively persuading Kiev to buy American and French-made aircraft from them, respectively. To a large extent, this is done in order to exclude the possibility of China acquiring the Motor Sich enterprise.
However, Ukraine is not able to acquire the same Rafale in sufficient quantities: the entire annual budget of the Ukrainian Air Force can be spent on the purchase of only three such aircraft, and after all they need to be serviced, trained pilots, and what are three aircraft, if we compare Ukraine with its most the likely enemy - neighboring Russia.
Sebastien Roblin lists those aircraft models that could suit the Ukrainian military aviation at the present stage of its existence. These are American F-15 or F-16C, E-2 early warning aircraft. However, the same F-15s remain expensive to operate. Another option is the Swedish Gripen-E planes, but Sweden is unlikely to be able to influence Kiev so that Ukraine would buy the planes from it, and not from the United States or France.
At the same time, many Western experts express doubts not only that Ukraine will be able to modernize its Air Force, but also in the very expediency of such modernization. This may be a senseless undertaking, also because Kiev will not be able to compete with Russia in terms of the number of aircraft under any circumstances.
Over the past 30 years, Ukraine has practically not been involved in the development of its own air force. Not only aircraft have become obsolete, but also all related infrastructure, technical support, training systems for flight personnel and technical personnel. But even if a miracle happens and Kiev receives money to purchase a certain number of modern American or French fighters, its aircraft will still remain vulnerable to the Russian Aerospace Forces.