The Russian Air Force (VKS) has procured 350 modern combat aircraft in the last ten years and the question that must be on every Russian’s mind in the second week of the Ukraine War is: What did we get for our money?
Because by all accounts, the Russian Air Force is nearly AWOL from Russia’s biggest battles since 1945.
Military researcher Justin Bronk noted on Friday that “the Russian Air Force has yet to commence large-scale operations.”
“The continued absence of major air operations,” he says, “now raises serious capability questions.”
It’s also a safe bet that it isn’t the Ukraine Air Force preventing the VKS from establishing air superiority over Ukraine. …
Even if the VKS only has experience flying two- or four-ship missions, why aren’t they flying a hell of a lot more missions in support of troops — perhaps as many as 10,000 of them — getting killed on the ground?
Portable ground to air missiles — MANPADS — are probably responsible:
Part of what’s missing is likely fear of losses to Ukraine antiaircraft missiles — whether fixed, mobile, or man-portable air defenses (MANPADS).
One big reason the U.S. Air Force (and more recently, the Navy) went so big for stealth is that the battlespace was getting extremely uncomfortable for fighters and bombers. Soviet — later, Russian and Chinese — air defenses were getting denser and deadlier. The jet that was more difficult to detect, track, and hit would have the advantage.
That’s stealth: It’s an interlocking set of technologies and tactics that make stealthy planes more difficult to shoot down. …
What few missions VKS has flown over Ukraine, they’ve flown mostly at night in order to minimize losses to MANPADS. The few precision strikes Russia has launched have been with cruise missiles, again to minimize risk to Russia’s expensive fleet of non-stealthy aircraft.
But what good is a modern air force that can’t be deployed in a modern battlespace?
Stealth is the price of admission to modern air warfare, but it’s a price Russia can’t afford to pay.
The Telegraph reckons verified images show 11 Russian planes and 11 Russian helicopters have been shot down so far. Russia cannot sustain that rate of losses for long.
Missiles are changing everything, driving tanks and aircraft off the battlefield. Today’s cavalry, almost. Simply put: relatively cheap missiles with computers can lock onto expensive machines and blow them up.
Not sure that stealth makes much difference with MANPADS. While stealth makes aircraft harder to find with radar from tens of kilometers away, MANPADS are very short range. Radar trickery can’t hide a 40 tonne aircraft that’s only a couple of kilometers away.