Ukraine’s Air-Denial Strategy: Challenges and Solutions
Ukraine has been using an air-denial strategy to protect itself from Russian attacks, but this strategy is increasingly at risk. The Russian Air Force has adapted their strategy, and is now using missile and drone attacks to attrit Ukraine’s air defenses and gain air superiority. While this is a difficult pill to swallow, Ukraine must accept this reality if it wants to protect itself. It is essential that Ukraine remains steadfast in its successful approach of denying airspace, while the international alliance aiding Ukraine must keep providing Ukraine with air defense systems and munitions.
The most significant threat to Ukrainian aircraft is the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile sites deployed in Russian-occupied Crimea and Belarus, which has forced Ukrainian pilots to fly low to avoid detection. Poland has offered to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters and other NATO countries may be willing to re-export their own fighters to Ukraine. However, President Biden has said the U.S. will not provide F-16s to Ukraine.
Ukraine has been working to obtain two squadrons of Fighting Falcon jets, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said the transfer of any aircraft to Ukraine could happen only in agreement with NATO countries, and Poland would act in full coordination with its allies. Ukraine is also seeking to obtain long-range missiles to destroy Russian rear depots and command centers.
Thus, the constant supply of Western weapons is crucial for Ukraine’s success in the defensive war against Russian invasion. Recently, Poland, Germany, and the United States have all committed to sending tanks to Ukraine, including Leopard tanks from the former two countries and Abrams tanks from the latter. Ukrainian officials, however, have proposed that the country require jet fighters, long-range missiles, and possibly submarines in addition to what is currently available.
Therefore, the United States and its allies and partners should act immediately to increase both the production of current air-denial weapons and the development of future systems. It is also important for Ukraine to expand weapon options for their present aircraft and to obtain stand-off glide bombs that could be very useful for attacking Russian fuel and munitions storage and command posts. With the right support from the international community, Ukraine can protect itself from Russian aggression and maintain its successful air-denial strategy.
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1. “Biden says U.S. won't be providing F-16s to Ukraine” CBS News, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-f16s-biden-says-today-us-wont-provide/
2. “Yermak on F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine: “positive signals” from Poland” Ukrinform, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3662104-yermak-on-f16-fighter-jets-for-ukraine-positive-signals-from-poland.html
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