What missiles can Ukraine shoot down and why do we need the F-16: an interview with Yuri Ignat
Sky defense has become one of the most important elements in the war with Russia. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russia has tried to suppress Ukrainian air defenses, but has failed, despite having much better aircraft and precision-guided missiles.
In the early days of a full-scale invasion, the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defense was up to 30%. But with each passing day, thanks in no small measure to its partners, Ukraine has been building up its muscles and withstood with dignity against Russia's massive missile attacks.
In Ukraine, modern Western systems began to appear, the transmission of which was recently difficult to imagine. Step by step, Ukraine overcame the taboo of Western partners, thereby increasing its chances of confronting the aggressor in the sky.
Despite the exhausting and bloody battles on land, the issue of airspace plays an equally important role. Ukraine needs modern air defense systems and fighter jets to protect the civilian population and liberate the temporarily occupied territories.
The representative of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel Yuriy Ignat , in an exclusive interview with Channel 24 , told how the effectiveness of Ukraine's air defense increased to 75% and how our pilots resisted the invaders at the cost of their own lives in the first days of the invasion.
He also explained what types of missiles the Ukrainian military can shoot down and what the Russians are trying to achieve when they launch balloons in Ukraine.
Yuriy Ignat explained why the Russians did not launch an air raid on the anniversary of the full-scale invasion, and explained in detail why Ukraine needs a fighter like the F-16.
What types of missiles are shot down by Ukraine and which still cannot be neutralized
Why don't air defense forces shoot down all missiles? For example, on February 18, out of 4 Kalibr missiles, 2 were shot down. But on February 10, out of 71 enemy missiles, 61 were shot down. What determines the effectiveness of air defense and which missiles do we shoot down?
According to all standards – both international and ours, even if 30% of cruise missiles are shot down – the work of air defense is already considered successful. It matters what missiles they attack! We can name the types of missiles that are capable of shooting down and those that are not. We can shoot down types of cruise missiles whose performance characteristics allow them to be shot down with the systems that we have in service.
Our main systems are in service: Buk-M1 and S-300. These are anti-aircraft guided missiles that can shoot down both aircraft and cruise missiles.
Launches from the S-300 during military exercises in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
What missiles can we shoot down:
- “Caliber” (3M14) – sea-based cruise missile (which the enemy attacks from the Black Sea – Channel 24),
- X-101 / X-555 / X-55 – air-launched cruise missiles,
- R-500 (9M728) – ground-based cruise missile from the Iskander-K complex (similar to “Caliber”),
- X-59 – guided air-to-ground missile,
- Kh-35 is an air, sea or coastal anti-ship missile.
We don't shoot down ballistic missiles. In particular, Iskander-M is 9M723 ballistic missiles, which the enemy used a lot at the beginning of the war. In fact, the Russians spent their entire strategic supply of Iskander-M at the beginning of the war, so subsequently they began to use outdated Tochka-U complexes. By Kramatorsk railway station, for example. Also, unfortunately, there is no way to intercept MLRS missiles, like Smerch.
Russian X-22 missile destroyed a building in the Dnieper on January 14, 2023 / Photo by the State Emergency Service
All these missiles fly fast – along a ballistic trajectory and actually fall on the target with great speed. In order to bring down the already falling, special anti-aircraft missile systems are needed. We also include S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles, which the invaders use against ground targets in the frontline zone at a distance of up to 150 kilometers, to ballistics.
The greater the distance from the launch site, the greater the inaccuracy, so they often end up in the wrong place, and civilians die. In this application, it is nothing but a weapon of terrorism.
Although the X-22 missile is classified as a cruise missile, its speed is 4-5 thousand kilometers per hour. It is launched from a very high altitude, and when entering the target, it actually dives like ballistics. This missile has a deadly warhead weighing 950 kg. It was she who demolished the house in the Dnieper and the shopping center in Kremenchug.
Why is it hard to shoot down an X-22 missile?
None of the more than 120 Kh-22 missiles fired since the start of the full-scale aggression has been shot down. And there is a simple explanation for this.
So, the radio engineering troops see how the Tu-22M3 plane or a group of planes flies, how they separate, how the missile converges, too, can be seen on the radar. Another thing is the interception of a missile and its destruction.
When a missile flies at such a high speed and enters the zone of destruction of an anti-aircraft missile system, our S-300 combat service, say, has only up to 40 seconds to detect it with a surveillance radar, directly capture it with an illumination radar and launch a missile. This time is physically not enough for the operators of the obsolete Soviet complex to successfully complete such a task.
Many of those 120 missed the mark. Some of them fell in the field… But many of them caused destruction and brought a lot of grief to the Ukrainians. In order to shoot down the X-22, Ukraine needs an anti-aircraft missile system that can operate in automatic mode, that is, it will independently make decisions without human intervention – with the latest radar and a modern missile.
Norwegian air defense system NASAMS deployed in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
Even the German Iris-T and the Norwegian NASAMS can operate in this automatic mode, however, we still do not have many of these air defense systems. Yes, and they were not created for work on ballistics. But, of course, you can try … The only question is that the complex should be located at the right time and in the right place.
Note! At one time, Ukraine also had Kh-22 missiles, about the fate of which there is different information. On the one hand, open sources write that in 2000 Ukraine gave Russia 386 X-22 missiles as payment for debts. On the other hand, one can find a figure of 225 Kh-22s destroyed at the Ozernoye airfield, as well as a figure of 432 Kh-22 missiles, which were disposed of in Poltava.
When will Ukraine be able to shoot down X-22?
Ukraine needs systems practically capable of shooting down Kh-22 and other high-speed missiles. We are talking about the Patriot and FSAF SAMP / T air defense systems, which, we hope, will arrive soon. But their range of destruction of ballistic targets is only about 40 kilometers.
For understanding, an anti-aircraft missile system (system) consists of a command post, at a certain distance from which the radar is located, at a distance from the radar, say, 4 launchers plus support vehicles. Thus, if we imagine the location of the launchers, for example, in a semicircle, then it is possible to protect the airspace from ballistics in a section of conditionally more than 120 kilometers.
SAM Patriot / Photo dpa
If we are talking about cruise missiles and aircraft, helicopters and UAVs, then Patriot and FSAF SAMP / T are already hitting up to 150 kilometers. In this case, the installations can be placed further away, but on condition that the radar is in touch with them.
The advantage of these Western systems is the ability to work in a single information field, that is, to exchange information in real time. If NASAMS did not reach the target in this area, then it will shoot down somewhere further along the Iris-T route, and if not, then the Patriot.
What other missiles are not capable of shooting down air defense forces now?
A situation similar to the Kh-22 has developed around the R-800 Oniks supersonic coastal-based anti-ship cruise missiles, which are often launched in the Odessa region.
And, of course, the latest threat is the Kh-47 hypersonic aeroballistic missile. “Dagger” used from MiG-31K aircraft. The complexity of its defeat is conditionally several times higher than the same Kh-22, due to the significantly higher flight speed, even less time for the response of equipment and people.
Previously, their use was of a one-time nature, but the recent salvo of 6 missiles (Russia fired 6 “Daggers” on the night of March 9 – Channel 24) confirms the true danger of these weapons and the critical need for modern air defense.
In addition, “narrow-profile” aviation anti-radar missiles Kh-31P and similar short-range air-to-ground missiles – so to speak, of the lower, tactical level, also do not go down. But for the most part, they pose a threat only near the line of combat.
We all talk about this honestly, so as not to inspire any hope in vain. We are not Russia and we cannot lie to our own people.
Russia hit from all means: how Ukraine got out of the blow
What is achieved by shooting down cruise missiles?
Every year, at the Yagorlyk training ground in the Kherson region, we carried out live firing of anti-aircraft missile systems. From different divisions of Ukraine, a group was created, which, according to the legend of the exercises, should protect the coastline from the attack of Caliber cruise missiles.
The role of cruise missiles was performed by Soviet drones VR-3 “Reis” (Tu-143) issued from the Odessa region. The UAV flew into the Black Sea and from there headed for the Yagorlyk, simulating the Caliber attack.
The Tu-143 is actually a copy of a cruise missile in terms of flight parameters and dimensions, which is very important. The goal is not simple, it needs to be detected and launched in a timely manner. On one such Tu-143 flight, sometimes 3-4 missiles were launched. This is the way to learn how to shoot down exactly the potential threat that could come from the Black Sea and in the end – it came!
There were live firings, there were experimental firings and our tactical aviation was working. Why expert shooting? Because every year we tested the ability to be used and put on combat duty of anti-aircraft guided missiles in our warehouses.
Note! Yuri Ignat explained that the missiles were being tested to see if they were fit for use. For this, for example, one rocket from a certain batch was dismantled. If the condition of the rocket is suitable, then other rockets were taken from this batch for experimental launches at the Yagorlyk training ground. If no problems were recorded during the test launches, this meant that the party could be used for combat duty in the state's air defense system.
What is happening in Russia – anti-aircraft missiles with which they fire at us fall in the Belgorod region. That is, missiles do not even reach the borders. This is probably due, in part, to the fact that the Russians do not test their old missiles. Perhaps the self-liquidators are working, or something is wrong with the rocket fuel.
Yuri Ignat / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
At the beginning of the invasion, we faced a threat when the enemy hit with all means. We managed to get out from under the blow and gain abilities. It was possible to take out a large number of equipment. Yes, it took a certain time, so the rate of shooting down missiles was initially low.
These are no longer “flights”, when you clearly know and expect that he will fly right along the route. These are technological cruise missiles that can penetrate the air defense system. For example, in open sources there is information that “Caliber” costs 6 million dollars, X-101 – 11 or 13 million dollars.
How has the approach to destroying air targets changed?
At first, they shot down a few missiles, because they did not get these opportunities. There were 20–30% missiles being shot down. Fighter aircraft were also used, however, this is very difficult. More often began to use MANPADS as part of mobile fire groups of all the Defense Forces of Ukraine.
The MANPADS operator has very little time to make a decision. An enemy missile flies at a speed of 800 – 900 kilometers per hour. Firstly, you need to see it visually, which is very difficult at night. Secondly, to escort – to launch the MANPADS itself, point the target at the missile, capture and fire accurately.
Missile launches from the S-300 air defense system during military exercises in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
But we began to see that this principle can work, the question is in the system of interaction. To do this, they began to create mobile fire groups and observation posts. And this slightly strengthened the air defense. Even if 10% of missiles are shot down from those MANPADS, and now they are somewhere, then this is already the result and saved lives and infrastructure.
Target destruction rates began to skyrocket when we received Western weapons such as NASAMS, Iris-T and others.
The enemy is cunning: why a lot of air defense systems are concentrated around Kyiv
Why are a lot of air defense systems concentrated around Kyiv and what trick are the occupiers using?
Because the Russians direct most of the attacks on the capital – its environs. The goal of the enemy is to strike at the heart of the country. Therefore, it is clear that the area needs to be strengthened. Each region is covered by different systems, but the top military leadership of the state understands the priority goals of the enemy. Therefore, the lion's share of missiles and Shahids were shot down on the outskirts of the capital.
Sometimes 100% of the missiles are shot down, for example, four out of four, and sometimes two out of four. This is normal, because it is not always possible to detect and intercept these missiles. The enemy is cunning and takes into account all the intelligence, especially those relating to space and ground intelligence – the agents are working.
And plus people who can help the enemy with photographs. In addition, aerial reconnaissance is also being conducted to identify positions. The same A-50 takes off when our air defense is working, it sees the approximate launch sites. Each time they are different, but they make up a certain algorithm. We know all this and take it into account, but they also take it into account when planning the next attacks.
Consequently, the Russians are laying the route of missiles and strike UAVs in such a way that they can even fly in circles.
They use the terrain, the channels of the Dnieper, Dniester, Southern Bug, so that both the rocket and the Shahid fly as low as possible. It is difficult to catch and shoot down an air target there, because they are not visible by radar. Cruise missiles are designed to snuggle lower to the ground, scanning the terrain as they fly.
German air defense system Iris-T in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
Medium-range air defense systems available in Ukraine cannot physically cover the entire country, they cover important strategic areas, critical infrastructure facilities and are constantly moving. The remaining zones are blocked by fighters and mobile fire groups. Today we have in the Armed Forces a wide range of different air defense systems of Soviet and foreign production. But this is not enough. Our country is large – one of the largest in Europe.
In addition, success in anti-aircraft combat is achieved through professionalism and combat experience. No other country has faced such attacks as ours. Therefore, our experience will become a textbook for the whole world, how to counter modern cruise missiles, which cost 13 million dollars and were developed in 2010, in such conditions with the complexes of the 1970-1980s.
What role did our aviation play in air defense?
Of course, aviation plays an important role. Especially since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, when the Russians began to attack Ukraine with large strike groups of aircraft. In particular, our fighters intercepted them. The Russians, when they saw that our guys were flying at them, did not actually enter the battle, but launched missiles from a great distance and left. They do not need to get closer, because technologically they prevail.
Sometimes they retreated so that they fell into the zone of destruction of our air defense. In the end, this was one of the main tasks of the fighter aviation of the Air Force – to prevent the enemy from flying further and to push him back under the action of our air defense systems.
In order to work on the enemy, our pilots need to get close to the minimum distance, launch a rocket and highlight the target with a radar until it hits.
It is enough for the enemy to see our plane more than 100 kilometers away and launch a missile with an active homing head. Unfortunately, we do not have such missiles.
Anniversary of the invasion: why they talked about the Russian air raid
Until February 24, it was said from all the cracks that there would be a large-scale attack by missiles or aircraft. You said on February 21 that there would be no massive attack by hundreds of aircraft. Why do you think there was so much talk about this possible attack by planes?
Because the Financial Times wrote about the “accumulation of enemy aircraft around the Ukrainian borders”. When an important publication writes such things, they are picked up and become mainstream all over the world, because the topic is interesting. Why not – the anniversary of the invasion, massive attack, “we can repeat.”
Our air defense is now not in the same conditions as in the first days of the invasion – why would Russian aviation fly here? They know they will be shot down!
Then the Russians made several powerful air raids a day, in different directions. And most of those planes and helicopters that are now in the statistics of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were destroyed in the first weeks. We heard a lot of Igor Konashenkov (conducting briefings of the Russian Ministry of Defense – Channel 24), who said: “The Air Force of Ukraine has been destroyed, resistance is only “focal” in nature. Aviation has been destroyed, base airfields have been destroyed.” Their military also read propaganda telegram channels…
They thought that they would feel free in the Ukrainian sky. But in the end, why should they be afraid on such aircraft as the Su-35, Su-30, some of our MiG-29. They are well aware of the performance characteristics of our aircraft.
Ukrainian aircraft MiG-29 / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
The Russians launched missile and bomb strikes with different types of aircraft. Fighters were covered by bombers and attack aircraft. A group of planes flew into the bed of the Dnieper so that they were less noticeable.
They were bombed in the Zhytomyr region and are returning back. Or they made a second run, bombed again and flew back.
Exactly a year ago, two Ukrainian MiG-29s flew towards them. One of the pilots – Hero of Ukraine – Oleksandr Brinzhala. He received this high title posthumously, March 2 was the anniversary of his death.
Together with a partner, they flew out to intercept, it would seem, four enemy aircraft, but it turned out that there were four groups of three aircraft. In total – 12 enemy aircraft.
Alexander Brinzhala, who died in battles with the invaders / Photo from open sources
However, our pilots did not deviate from the course and entered into an unequal battle, however, with the support of our air defense. Brinzhala then died … but as a result of this battle, the Russians lost as many as three brand new combat aircraft. And there were many such cases.
That's how they flew in different regions. Their goal was to conquer the airfields around Kyiv, land troops, encircle, force the authorities to surrender Ukraine, capitulate and thus “take Kyiv in three days.”
Now the situation is not at all the same. Our air defense has gained power and strength. Now each division of the Defense Forces has its own, albeit small, air defense. Therefore, a massive attack by aircraft would be impossible.
And it so happened that the Financial Times wrote that Russia is again accumulating aircraft … The enemy aviation group, as it was in the amount of 750, remains in that number. In place of the lost equipment, a new one arrives. They attack us from different airfields, and there are about 40 of them – Belarus, the occupied territories, Russia. It is impossible to pull airfields to the borders. Where there were airfields, they are there. Enemy aircraft move accordingly to tasks.
Ukraine survived the winter: where will Russia send its missiles now
Winter is over, Russia has failed to destroy our energy infrastructure with missiles. What's next? What new goal can Russia have?
They can shoot anything. Their priority targets are government buildings, buildings of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense. That is, as they call them there, “decision-making centers.”
Also transport infrastructure, hydraulic structures, treatment facilities. Anything that can bring grief to people and an ecological disaster. Well, as we see from the results of March 9, the enemy does not leave attempts to attack our energy sector.
Government buildings are not only the capital, because we remember the Kharkiv and Nikolaev Regional State Administrations. Therefore, you can expect anything from them. We just need to be ready and destroy everything that flies at us. And people follow the safety guidelines.
The building of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration after a missile attack / Photo by the Kharkiv Regional State Administration
Will they continue to do so? Although production continues, the main strategic stock of the latest cruise and ballistic missiles is being depleted. We are talking about X-101, “Caliber”, “Iskander-M”, “Dagger”. This is a weapon that can fly far and hit within a radius of 10-20 meters. This is a high precision long range weapon.
Recently, Russia has been increasingly launching balloons into our space, balloons with corner reflectors. What is the main goal? Exhaust our air defense? How much does this interfere with our military and is it dangerous?
Anything in the sky is an aerial target. It must either be knocked down or not. That is, it depends on what decision the military leadership makes in accordance with the threat the target poses. You can't launch rockets that cost millions of dollars all over the place. Iris-T and NASAMS are not cheap rockets. For us, they are generally priceless, because they save our lives. We can't spend it on balloons.
The ball is the same air target. It is visible because it carries metal or some kind of foil, as a result of which the radar signal is reflected. All information about the targets: speed, direction and altitude of the flight, as well as wind direction – is quickly processed and analyzed. It is concluded what type of air target it is.
Missile launches from the S-300 air defense system during exercises in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
Other targets are identified in the same way: the marker on the radar can be a ball, or an airplane, or a rocket. You click on the target and you see that it is flying steadily at a speed of, for example, 800 kilometers per hour, and you realize that this is a cruise missile.
An airplane also appears on the radar: it maneuvers, decreases – the speed dropped to 400 kilometers per hour, and then gained up to 1200. It is clear that this is an airplane, and even the type can be established. Also, a balloon is a target that also has its own flight parameters. Plus, weather data on wind direction are taken into account.
Every air object has a reflective surface. The smaller the target, the smaller this surface. The operator can distinguish the ball from one or another UAV. If the ball flies low enough, then it can be shot down by anti-aircraft guns, but this is rarely the case.
Ukrainian aviation needs to be replaced: why the F-16
It is clear that Russian aviation still poses a great threat to Ukraine and it is difficult for us to oppose something. Which of the planes we have is the best?
The Russian aviation group attacking Ukraine is actually five times larger than our Air Force, plus their fighters are much more technologically advanced.
Despite everything, our fighters are in the sky every day, they hit enemy air defenses with HARM missiles, and also cover our strike groups of attack aircraft and bombers, inflicting up to 20 air strikes on enemy positions daily.
To successfully complete the mission, they must go deep into the enemy defenses – into the zones of destruction of both enemy air defense in the occupied territory and enemy fighters.
Ukrainian pilots on MiG-29 aircraft / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
Enemy air defense on the line of combat is extremely saturated with different systems. Yes, they are destroyed a lot, but Russia is the manufacturer of these weapons. They have a lot of air defense systems – Tor, Pantsir-S1, Buk-M1, newer Buk-M2 and Buk-M3, S-300, S-350, S-400.
Air defense is not so easy to destroy, because it is “hiding”. Flying deep into the enemy's defense is very dangerous and you need to cuddle closer to the ground. And if you do not do this, then you will easily become prey. But this is not all, because the radars of enemy fighters are already looking out for them … Therefore, the skill of piloting at extremely low altitudes and competent maneuvering is a matter of survival for our pilots.
Modern Western aircraft could gain an advantage in the air, become a reliable shield against enemy cruise missiles and drones, moreover, effectively and safely deliver pinpoint strikes, “choke” air defenses, interrupt enemy logistics, command posts, etc.
Having gained air superiority in a certain sector of the front, one can fully count on a successful ground de-occupation operation. And maybe you don't even have to fight hard. Perhaps the invaders will simply run after that, as in the Kherson and Kharkov regions.
Why does Ukraine need the F-16?
Today, under such circumstances, the Air Force needs to focus on a single type of multi-purpose aircraft, and the F-16 is the most common aircraft of its class in the world, exactly the one that meets our needs.
We need such aircraft primarily to protect against Russian terrorist missile attacks on our cities and critical infrastructure. They will become a significant component of the overall air defense.
Aircraft of the MiG and Su types cannot effectively shoot down cruise missiles and Shahids. Yes, it succeeds from time to time, but this is more an exception than a rule, the efficiency is frankly low. The F-16 with its powerful radar and modern missiles will make it possible to shoot down these targets really effectively.
On the line of combat collision, the enemy began to use gliding corrected aerial bombs weighing 1,500 kilograms. Russian planes do not even enter the zone of destruction of our air defense and launch these bombs tens of kilometers from the line of combat.
Long-range anti-aircraft missile systems, which should come to Ukraine, and then in small numbers, can counter these threats. As well as modern multirole fighters, using air-to-air missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
One of the modifications of these missiles can reach air targets at a distance of up to 180 km. Such weapons would quickly help distance Russian aviation far from our borders and we could save our cities and villages from Russian bombing.
In addition, this platform has a wide range of weapons that can deliver powerful strikes against ground targets, and even sea targets. We need an aircraft with long-range weapons that can effectively launch HARM missiles, launch modern ammunition of various types in service with NATO countries. These are very good missiles, guided aerial bombs and other weapons.
Commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Mykola Oleshchuk / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
We do not need to attack the territory of Russia with them, because there are clearly stated plans of Ukraine – we must de-occupy our territories, in particular, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions and restore our territorial integrity. To do this, we need modern humane, that is, high-precision, weapons. We are not going to fight with barbaric methods, like Russia, using banned phosphorus ammunition and other weapons that are destroying the cities and villages of Ukraine.
At the same time, I don’t understand the periodic discussions, for example, about the A-10 for Ukraine, because how will it help us with such a threat to Russian air defense and fighters? And the hassle and expense with this decrepit machine is much greater than with the F-16, with narrower functions.
F-16s are currently available in some countries, which are now being re-equipped with even newer aircraft. But it is clear that the United States must give permission for the transfer of F-16s from any country, even if they do not transfer their aircraft. It's like with the transfer of Leopard tanks.
And there is no need for extra “treason”. The issue is not easy, it takes a lot of time, a number of agreements, but there are already certain shifts. Our partners are consistent. I think Ukraine will have powerful wings that will help us save as many lives as possible and de-occupy our lands.
Yuriy Ignat claims that Ukraine will have new aircraft anyway. According to him, this issue was considered even before the start of the war in 2014. In 2020, the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine published the Vision of rational ways for the development of this type of Armed Forces of Ukraine. Yuriy Ignat explains that after 2014 Ukraine ceased to cooperate with Russia in the military sphere, so it was necessary to resolve issues with Soviet technology. He noted that restrictions prevented the majority of the aircraft fleet from completing missions. Ignat said that the Air Force is doing everything possible to extend the service life of Soviet equipment, but this cannot last forever. Also, the ammo for it is not infinite.
The issue of re-equipping with another type of aircraft, as Ignat says, was relevant long before the war. He notes that the war accelerated this process. Moreover, the question was raised not only of aircraft, but also of anti-aircraft missile systems. Patriot, FSAF SAMP/T and NASAMS were in the Vision adopted by the Air Force War Council before the full-blown war.
How long does it take to train pilots on the F-16
The training of pilots and engineers is a very complex issue. These are two main and key issues, which, perhaps, will be that not fleeting and deterrent. A pilot can fly in 1 – 2 weeks, but learning how to effectively use all systems and weapons is another matter …
The plane is designed to fight on it, and the pilot must learn how to fight. Up to six months, probably, our pilots will be able to master all types of weapons. The Air Force selected the most capable pilots with knowledge of English. They have combat experience, hundreds of flight hours, desire and optimism, and so on. These are young pilots who will have the prospect of further service. For each pilot there is an individual training program.
Engineers are also very important. Dozens of people daily serve one aircraft before and after departure, as well as ongoing maintenance and repairs. Visually, American and Soviet aircraft seem to fly the same way, but inside the system they are noticeably different. This is a complex process.
Fighter F-16 Fighting Falcon / Photo military.com
And about the infrastructure… In 2011, before Euro 2012, American pilots flew F-16s to the airfield in Mirgorod for the Safe Skies exercises. There were, among other things, two-seat combat training aircraft, the so-called “sparks”.
Our pilots could fly them with the Americans. This is called a familiarization flight. American pilots in the air handed over control to our pilots. The same procedure was done for guests at our “sparks”. There were no complaints about the conditions for basing the F-16 at our airfield at that time.
Also in 2018, Americans flew to Starokonstantinov for the Clear Sky exercises. This time on F-15C Eagle fighters. They carried out air battles between MiGs and Sushki against F-15s, watched how everything works, how it is possible to counter Soviet aircraft, realizing that the Russians already have modern Su-35s, Su-30s.
We imitated these threats for our pilots, worked out complex scenarios. The pilots also tried their hand at familiarization flights together. It was a powerful exchange of experience, which is now very useful.
How many aircraft Ukraine needs to protect
If a decision on the type is made, how many aircraft does the Air Force need for wartime, and in peacetime perspective?
On one of the French channels I was asked about this. I answered ambitiously that to protect such a large state as Ukraine, we need about 200 multi-purpose aircraft to form 4-5 brigades.
So far we have 5 tactical aviation fighter brigades. There is also a brigade of attack aircraft, a brigade of bombers and transport brigades. Thus, on the contrary, we are reducing the number thanks to multi-purpose aircraft that will be on combat duty throughout the country, in particular at additional operational airfields.
And the French general says on the air: “That Ukrainian colonel is right. Ukraine, like France, is one of the largest countries in Europe in size. How many planes do we have in France – 230?” And we are talking about the Rafale and the updated Mirage. Given that France is a NATO member, there are so many aircraft around friendly countries … “And Ukraine has enemies around – the Black and Azov Seas, Russia, Belarus … But he (Ignat – Channel 24) has not said much yet.” That's how the French general said on television.
What kind of military are they looking for in the Air Force
General mobilization continues in Ukraine. What personnel are needed in the Air Force?
Regardless of mobilization, we first of all need motivated young people to enter our specialized educational institution – Kharkiv National Air Force University.
NASAMS SAM command post in Ukraine / Photo courtesy of Channel 24
This also applies to anti-aircraft gunners, who can master the latest Western equipment that is already working in Ukraine, these are radio engineering troops, signal troops, aircraft engineers and, of course, the flight department.
With the future entry of Ukraine into NATO, the prospect of military service, especially in the Air Force, looks very attractive, but for this we definitely need to win and rebuild a strong country, because we already have a strong army!