Military Review

Tactical aviation of the Ukrainian Air Force: dubious plans and real degradation


The current state of the Ukrainian Air Force cannot even be called acceptable. A limited number of older types of aircraft and helicopters remain in service, mostly still Soviet-built. In recent years, Kiev has been actively working on the issues of updating the Air Force and restructuring the tactical aviation – and even drew up a program of action for 2021-35. However, there is every reason to believe that even in the best case, it will be implemented only partially.

Actual problems

At the moment, "Povіtryanі sili" cannot boast of large size or high combat capability. According to The Military Balance 2021, the tactical combat aviation of the Air Force is distributed among four fighter and two bomber-assault brigades. The total number of combat aircraft was estimated at about 125 units.

The MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters remain the most massive in the Air Force - about 35 units. each type. There were also more than 30 Su-25 attack aircraft and a dozen Su-24 front-line bombers. For reconnaissance tasks, approx. 10 Su-24MR aircraft. The newer World Air Forces 2022 guide from Flight Global gives different numbers, but in general, the two publications do not contradict each other.

A characteristic problem of the Air Force of Ukraine is the unacceptable obsolescence of available equipment. All combat aircraft and almost all other aviation equipment went to the Ukrainian army during the collapse of the USSR. Accordingly, the newest fighters and bombers celebrated their thirtieth anniversary last year. This negatively affects the performance and capabilities. In addition, the real combat readiness of the machines is questionable.

Repeated attempts have been made to repair and modernize aircraft, but there are specific problems in this area. Thus, a major overhaul cannot fundamentally solve the problem of the age of equipment. In addition, such events are extremely difficult or even impossible without the participation of Russia. The involvement of third countries allows solving some issues, but it is also associated with difficulties and problems.

Thus, the Air Force is in poor condition and cannot fully solve the assigned tasks. In addition, there are all the prerequisites for further deterioration of the situation - economic, organizational, corruption, technical, etc. In the absence of any measures, the combat-ready fleet of the Air Force, already not the largest, will continue to decline with no hope of recovery.

big program

In the spring of 2020, the Air Force development plan was formed and published under the name "Vision of the Air Force 2035" ("Vision of the Air Force 2035"). This document proposes a number of measures that will make it possible in the distant future to re-equip the Air Force and return its capabilities to an acceptable level.

In this regard, the main attention is paid to the renewal of combat aviation. Based on the results of the implementation of the plan, the Air Force is going to have four tactical aviation brigades equipped with a single type of multi-role fighter. The required amount of equipment is estimated at 72 to 108 aircraft. The total cost of the program will be 200 billion hryvnia, and most of this money is expected to be spent on tactical aircraft.

The modernization of the Air Force is divided into three stages - preparatory, executive and fixing. Each of them, according to the plan, will solve its own problems and create the basis for the next stage. Despite the different complexity of the tasks set, it is expected to spend five years on each stage.

The first preparatory stage of the program is designed for 2021-25. In the context of tactical aviation, its goal is the selection and development of a new fighter. The tender for the purchase of foreign equipment was supposed to be held in 2021-22, and a contract should appear in 2022. From 2023 to 2025, the Air Force was going to receive from 6 to 12 aircraft for study, development and trial operation.

In 2025, the "executive" stage of the program should start. Its goal is to regularly purchase and supply new equipment while decommissioning obsolete equipment. Up to 10-12 aircraft are expected to be purchased and put into service annually. By the end of the stage, two tactical brigades should completely switch to the new equipment.

The "fixing" third stage, scheduled for 2031-35, will continue the activities of the second and ensure the completion of all transformations and retooling. According to its results, the Air Force must acquire the final form with the required number of formations and equipment. In addition, by this time they will completely get rid of obsolete Soviet-made equipment.

It is curious that the previously published plan does not describe measures to upgrade the infrastructure in accordance with the requirements of new aviation technology. Also, the issue of updating the arsenals of weapons with the transition to new standards has not been disclosed. Obviously, a full-fledged modernization of the Air Force will not do without such measures, and their implementation is associated with additional costs and requires some time.

Missing Successes

The first phase of the new plan was supposed to start last year. This stage will last for several more years, but the main features of the work and key trends are already visible and understandable. Moreover, it becomes possible to make predictions for the future, up to the end of the third stage.

According to the plan "Visions of the Air Forces 2035", in 2021-22. must go through a tender, during which a new fighter-bomber will be selected for further rearmament. The first half of this period has already passed, but nothing is known about the competition. Various contenders for the purchase were named, but the matter has not yet progressed further than talks. Accordingly, one should not expect that by the end of 2022 the Ukrainian Air Force will be able to carry out all the necessary measures and select a new aircraft.

Probably, the tender is being postponed for the most banal reasons: due to the lack of necessary funding, as well as in connection with political and corruption processes. The emergence of such factors is typical and expected for modern Ukraine. In addition, it can be expected that they will continue in the future. This becomes a threat to both the first and subsequent stages of the program.

The main problems of the modernization plan are related to the lack of necessary funding. The military budget of Ukraine recently reached the level of 120 billion hryvnias, while 200 billion are needed to upgrade the Air Force. Whether it will be possible to release 15 of the current annual budget for only one program in 1,7 years is a big question. It is very likely that the actual spending on aviation will be lower than planned.

An additional "threat" for rearmament is the lack of clear plans for infrastructure, command and control equipment, weapons, etc. Their renewal is rather complicated and expensive. The implementation of such measures may be included in the overall budget of the program, which will affect other purchases.

In matters of financing, Ukraine can rely on foreign assistance. In addition, it is possible to transfer or purchase used equipment from the presence of the air forces of third countries. International contracts of recent years show the fundamental possibility of such purchases, despite the very limited benefit from them.

A future without a future

Thus, Ukraine sees and understands all the problems of its “Reinforcement Forces”, and also realizes the need to update and improve them. To solve this problem, a bold long-term plan was drawn up and adopted, covering all issues of updating the Air Force, and tactical aviation occupies the main place in it.

It is easy to see that the plan of "Viziya Resurrection Forces 2035" is too bold for the Ukrainian economy and the armed forces in their current state. It turns out to be too expensive and complicated, and the distribution of purchases over the next 15 years as a whole does not solve these problems. It is possible that Ukraine will turn to foreign countries for help, but this does not guarantee the timely and full-scale implementation of all plans.

When and how all existing problems will be solved, and whether it will be possible to do this, is unknown. Meanwhile, tactical aviation in the form of morally and physically obsolete aircraft will continue to degrade. If the necessary measures are not taken in the coming years and real steps are taken, Ukraine runs the risk of being left even without a small and limitedly combat-ready Air Force. However, the military-political situation transparently hints that such a scenario is negative only from the Ukrainian point of view.
Photos used:
Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, US Department of Defense

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  1. Aerodrome
    Aerodrome 20 January 2022 04: 24
    pixels on airplanes have already learned how to draw well ... let's see what's next.
    1. Uncle lee
      Uncle lee 20 January 2022 05: 29
      celebrated their thirtieth birthday.
      Ukraine runs the risk of being left even without a small and limited combat-ready Air Force

      -Doctor, can I have a beer?
      -What beer !!!
      -And in the future?
      -What is the future !!! lol
      1. Civil
        Civil 20 January 2022 08: 16
        In recent years, Kiev has been actively working on the issues of updating the Air Force and restructuring tactical aviation - and even drew up an action program for 2021-35.

        Too late, they won't make it. It was necessary to live with neighbors in peace.
        1. Orel
          Orel 21 January 2022 18: 30
          Quote: Civil
          Too late, they won't make it. It was necessary to live with neighbors in peace.

          The time really doesn't exist anymore. We'll see soon. We woke them up of course in 2014. Remember the army. Now they will not forget for a long time and there will be an update, the question is whether it will be done in the end. This is really a lesson for neighbors, especially for Kazakhstan. The army must be kept at an acceptable level, without gigantism and exorbitant expenses, it is enough to have combat-ready formations, at least in a certain amount.
    2. Emergency
      Emergency 20 January 2022 21: 23
      They don't have any more. Aviation ended in Ukraine.
  2. Serg Kam
    Serg Kam 20 January 2022 04: 59
    Combat aircraft are becoming more complex and more expensive.
    Accordingly, small countries will not be able to produce them.
    For Ukrainians, IMHO, the only adequate option is not to chase jet aircraft, but to try to create counter-guerrilla turboprops, such as SuperTukano.
    1. Seryoga64
      Seryoga64 20 January 2022 05: 32
      Quote: SergKam
      do not chase jet aircraft, but try to create counter-guerrilla turboprops, such as the SuperTucano.

      Yes, I strongly doubt that they will be able to establish mass production
      1. Serg Kam
        Serg Kam 20 January 2022 06: 11
        Yes, I strongly doubt that they will be able to establish mass production

        If they can’t arrange the production of even an analogue of a tukano, then accelerate the AN and fly on a purchased one (of course, if there is enough money to buy)
        1. Seryoga64
          Seryoga64 20 January 2022 06: 23
          Quote: SergKam
          then an overclock

          So he has been breathing heavily for a long time
          1. NDR-791
            NDR-791 20 January 2022 06: 34
            Quote: Seryoga64
            So he has been breathing heavily for a long time

            Then riding on Bayraktar hi
            1. Seryoga64
              Seryoga64 20 January 2022 06: 46
              Quote: NDR-791
              Then riding on Bayraktar

              Hi hi
              There is another way
          2. wow
            wow 20 January 2022 16: 54
            You are mistaken, colleague, he (An) is no longer breathing at all, because the dead cannot breathe.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 20 January 2022 15: 14
      "jet aviation, but try to create counter-guerrilla turboprop" ///
      Absolutely senseless.
      It is necessary to upgrade the 4th generation to 4+.
      Russia has all aviation: 4, 4+ and 4++.
      4+ (Su-27 upgrade) will be able to fight with 4++ (Su-35)
      1. Serg Kam
        Serg Kam 20 January 2022 16: 21
        Absolutely senseless.
        It is necessary to upgrade the 4th generation to 4+.

        This requires modern engines, radars, avionics
        Plus modern ammo.
        What does Ukraine have from this? Can you name at least one Ukrainian engine suitable for the Su-27?
        Or do you think that Russia will sell?
    3. Victor Masyuk
      Victor Masyuk 21 January 2022 16: 17
      They do not have adequate options when playing on their own. History testifies, and the realities of today show that Ukrainians, as a state-forming nation, outside the Russian state, are untenable. The only adequate option for them is the protectorate of Russia ...
  3. FRoman1984
    FRoman1984 20 January 2022 05: 25
    Ukraine will not have enough funds for any of the modern aircraft. They adopted the budget for 2022 with a $9 billion deficit. What planes are there.
    If you dream up, and if the collective west supports them with money, then it can be a single-engine Grippen NG, which, as far as I remember, is the cheapest and the operating hour is the lowest. Brazil did exactly the same, which cannot afford either Rafali or the F-16 block 70/72, much less the F-35 and F-15EX.
    1. Pete mitchell
      Pete mitchell 20 January 2022 13: 12
      No no, let's talk and a lot of planseven though you answered all the questions
      Quote: FRoman1984
      Ukraine does not have enough funds. They adopted the budget for 2022 with a $9 billion deficit. What planes are...

      Quote: FRoman1984
      If you dream up, and if the collective West supports them with money, then ...
      And why should the West support it with money? Nobody was given aviation equipment in Europe for free and they will not give it: at least because of the desire to maintain the reputation and prestige of the manufacturer.
      Yes, and the West does not need combat aviation of the 404th: to put all types of intelligence under control - no doubt; ground forces did not go anywhere; "fleet" will come in handy; radar after creating and downloading data to yourself is a must: they did this with all of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, and then at the expense of the locals. This is followed by control and communication. Aviation is not needed.
    2. demiurg
      demiurg 20 January 2022 14: 14
      No. Even Grippen Ukranina will not pull as the main aircraft.
      The most massive could be the M-346, or the new Albatross from the Czechs.
      Roughly speaking, two or three squadrons of Grippens, the rest Aeromacci.
      If you give kerosene, then the pilots will be with experience, and the Air Force is quite decent.

      But the most realistic option is a squadron of Superhornets / Vipers, and let the rest rot on the ground.
  4. Seryoga64
    Seryoga64 20 January 2022 05: 30
    If the necessary measures are not taken in the coming years and real steps are taken, Ukraine runs the risk of being left even without a small and limitedly combat-ready Air Force. V

    So they are sure that the entire geyropa, led by the United States, will rush to fight for them.
    There's another problem there. The flight crew is rapidly losing qualifications
  5. Jacket in stock
    Jacket in stock 20 January 2022 06: 53
    Ukraine runs the risk of being left even without a small and limited combat-ready Air Force

    Yes, and live.
    We care less.
  6. tralflot1832
    tralflot1832 20 January 2022 10: 55
    Well done, they did the right thing by jumping, and not doing import substitution. And so, how many F 16 and 18 are written off around the world, though not for free. Only junk for free.
    1. cat Rusich
      cat Rusich 20 January 2022 20: 34
      Quote: tralflot1832
      .Free only junk.
      Lithuania hands over training equipment to Ukraine L-39ZA Albatros (1998 release Czech Republic, decommissioned in 2021) - fix it yourself, no $ - transmitted in the form donations.
      1. tralflot1832
        tralflot1832 20 January 2022 20: 37
        I even suspect whose plane this is. This is junk, since the men did not want to bring it into a flying state.
  7. Glagol1
    Glagol1 20 January 2022 11: 34
    They won't pull. Repair is something else, and modernization without a developer will be only partial. And not as efficient. Aircraft are 30-35 years old, not the limit, but already close to it.
    There is only one thing left: buying a secondhand type f-16 and maintaining these pants. More than 36-48 pcs. won't pull. In general, they sailed. And nice.
    1. Barberry25
      Barberry25 20 January 2022 12: 39
      yes, plus there is that they do not have modern aviation weapons, only mockups
  8. svoit
    svoit 20 January 2022 14: 58
    In principle, since Romania bought an F16 for itself, then Ukraine will be able to, besides, it can be done for free, and the money will only be used for repairs, infrastructure, ammunition, and training.
  9. Denis812
    Denis812 20 January 2022 22: 03
    Ukraine will quite pull a couple of squadrons in World of Warplanes, it seems to me.
    But more is not yet capable.
    But there, too, you can draw a cool pixel board.
  10. Astra55
    Astra55 21 January 2022 00: 04
    Used only. About a dozen decommissioned F-16s. The current regime will not pull anything new.
  11. Borisych
    Borisych 21 January 2022 09: 01
    Dangerous flights on dangerous airplanes. And the pilots are running. In addition, if anything, they will start from airfields, and the runways are needed intact. So, do not blame me, non-brothers.
  12. Diverter
    Diverter 23 January 2022 20: 01
    At the moment, in their place, I would buy a Chinese analogue of the Yak 130, and I would pay with engines.
    Naturally, I would have ordered a modification with a radar for light bomber and fighter variants.