In the wake of the recent catastrophic losses of the Ukrainian Air Force, a Ukrainian lawmaker has expressed serious concerns about the future of the planned transfer of F-16 fighter jets from Western countries to Ukraine. That they may have the same fate. 27 jets destroyed at Mirgorod airfield.

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A Russian drone on July 1st identity Six Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets of the Ukrainian Air Force stand openly on the tarmac at Mirgorod Air Base, home of the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade, located about 150 kilometers southwest of the border in central Ukraine.

Seizing the opportunity, a Russian Iskander ballistic missile was launched, destroying two valuable supersonic fighters and damaging four others.

The incident could be one of the costliest days for Ukraine’s air force since Russia extended its military operations in February 2022. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuriy Ignat confirmed the attack, which was widely reported by Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels.

The Russian Ryber Telegram channel reported that two aircraft were destroyed and four others damaged in the attack, which used cluster munitions.

“As a result, in one raid, the Russian Armed Forces disabled six warplanes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which is the best result since the launch of the Northern Military District,” Raiber celebrated the attack. “

“Most likely, Ukrainian formations also suffered losses in flight and engineering personnel – reports of enemy resources indirectly indicate this,” the channel added.

The very next day, July 2, a Russian drone conducted surveillance over the Ukrainian air base in Poltava, located just east of Mirgorod and 100 miles from the border. After several hours of surveillance by the drone, the Iskandar missile fell. harmful Mil Mi-24 gunship helicopter of the Ukrainian army.

Russian raids expose dangers.

Since last fall, Russian attacks on Ukrainian bases have intensified, resulting in significant damage to the Ukrainian Air Force. The strikes have so far destroyed two Su-27 fighter jets, two MiG-29 fighter jets, one Su-25 attack jet, and possibly one Mi-24 helicopter.

The increasing frequency and success of these raids highlights a key problem: the lack of effective air defenses, leaving Ukrainian bases vulnerable to Russian drone and missile attacks.

According to Ukrainian accounts, a Russian drone hovered over the Mirgorod air base for about three hours, gathering intelligence before guiding the Iskander missile strike. The Ukrainian Sofa Assault Brigade Telegram channel expressed outrage at the drone’s prolonged presence.

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The channel reported that an Orlan-10 drone was hovering about five kilometers (about three miles) above the city, directing the following missile strikes.

Although the SOFA Assault Brigade disputed the number of aircraft destroyed as claimed by the Russians, it acknowledged the troubling fact that drones operated over Mirgorod for an extended period, targeting and recording the aftermath of the attack. .

On the other hand, defense analyst Vijender K Thakur, who closely follows the Russia-Ukraine conflict, speculated that the drone involved was likely a flying-wing Albatros M5.

Thakur noted that Mirgorod is 150 kilometers from the Line of Control, and the video footage was captured by a UAV north-east of the base with a camera lens tilted towards Ukrainian-controlled territory.

“Assuming an operating altitude of 30,000 feet, the camera was looking into about 35 km of adversary-controlled territory. This would put the UAV about 115 km into adversary airspace,” he added.

Thakur raised an important question: Why did Ukraine’s air defenses not engage the drones on both days? Thakur suggested that the Russian UAV could have advanced radio frequency and visual and audio stealth features, making it difficult to detect and target.

The Albatros M5, equipped with electro-optical sensors, can transmit real-time data and video images to aircraft and artillery on ground targets.

Additionally, Albatros can use their sensors to detect enemy air defenses, effectively acting as a decoy to attract enemy fire. Any attempt by Ukrainian air defenses to shoot down the UAV could result in immediate counter-attacks.

The Albatros M5 surveillance drone, with a wingspan of 3.3 meters, can operate for 4.5 hours, at a maximum altitude of five kilometers and with a range of 300 kilometers. It can be carried in a vehicle or carried by one person, preparation for flight takes no more than 10 minutes.

However, Thakur pointed out an important limitation: the albatross’ electro-optical sensors are ineffective in cloudy weather. However, the weather was clear over Mirgorod on July 1 and 2 during the Russian attacks.

Could the F-16s suffer the same fate?

The recent attacks on Ukrainian airports over two consecutive days have prompted Ukrainian lawmakers to express serious concerns about the safety of incoming F-16 fighter jets.

Mariana Bezhala, Deputy Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine), Addressed On his Telegram channel, these concerns specifically target the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Serskyi. Bezhala criticized the lack of aircraft shelters at Ukrainian airports and the overall state of air defense.

“You have not corrected the situation with the security of our aircraft, with air defense,” Bezhala said, stressing the urgent need to address these threats.

He argued that introducing the F-16 would not change the situation. Instead, they could become another target for Russian attacks. Bezhala questioned whether the necessary infrastructure for these Western fighters had been properly developed.

These concerns are based on the bitter reality of the conflict. The downing of two Su-27s over Mirgorod following Iskander missile strikes highlights Ukraine’s heavy losses.

Iskander ballistic missile
File Image: Iskander ballistic missile

In the past nine months, Russian forces have shot down at least five Ukrainian warplanes on the ground. Ukraine, already stretched thin, cannot afford such losses at this critical juncture.

When the war began in February 2022, the Ukrainian Air Force had about 125 jets, including Su-27s, Su-25s and MiG-29s. However, as confirmed by Oryx analysts, 28 months of intense fighting resulted in the loss of approximately 90 jets.

To compensate for these losses, Ukraine has acquired replacement MiGs and Sukhois from allies and long-term storage, maintaining its air force’s operational capability pending the expected arrival of Western-supplied fighters: 85 Lockheed Martin F-16s and potential Approximately a dozen Dassault Mirage 2000s. .

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However, the primary concern remains the vulnerability of these new fighters to Russian drone and missile strikes if released into the open.

Ukraine has acknowledged the threat and is reportedly taking steps to prepare for the arrival of F-16s by building underground storage and bunkers at its bases. Additionally, there are plans to store some of these jets at overseas bases for security reasons.

The effectiveness of these preparations remains to be seen in the coming weeks or months. The outcome of these efforts will affect Ukraine’s ability to withstand ongoing and future attacks by Russian forces.

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