Real Reason Behind The Russian Air Force’s Failure in Ukraine

The Russian air force is losing many aircraft and pilots – now, the situation seems to be getting desperate even more as the war drags on.
russian air force

Russia’s air force has been struggling in Ukraine as combat losses mount. A high number of pilots have been killed in the last few months, and Russia is resorting to unconventional strategies to cope with the rising number of pilot casualties 

The Russian Air Force is having countless troubles

Russia's air force, 052, 054, Sukhoi Su-57
Russian Air Force, 052, 054, Sukhoi Su-57 by Anna Zvereva. Licensed under CC by 2.0

The Russian Air Force’s difficulties in Ukraine come as no surprise to military experts. It has been beset by several problems, including a lack of funding, outdated equipment, high casualties, tough resistance, and poor morale. 

For instance, when supporting ground troops, Russians are relying on the Su-25, a notoriously difficult aircraft to fly, and it was not designed for the type of combat being waged in Ukraine. 


Actually, many of the Russian Air Force’s aircraft are outdated, and they are not well suited for fighting in Ukraine – and modern aircraft like the Su-57 are just prototypes that they use sparingly.

Sukhoi Su-57
Sukhoi Su-57 by Andrei Shmatko. Licensed under CC by 4.0

In addition, Russia is also facing a shortage of pilots due to low morale issues and casualties. Consequently, the Russian Air Force has been forced to rely on inexperienced pilots, and many of them have not received adequate training. 

The Russian Air Force’s struggles in Ukraine

Russian plane with bombs shot down over Chernihiv
Russian plane with bombs shot down over Chernihiv by State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Licensed under CC by 4.0

The Russian Air Force’s struggles in Ukraine are a sign of the larger problems the Russian military faces. 


According to some reports, the Russian government has been forced to deploy retired pilots to operate warplanes. While these pilots are experienced and capable, they are also significantly older than the average pilot. 

Moreover, their lack of familiarity with newer aircraft models is a big issue (although Russia isn’t deploying many modern aircraft anyway).

Also, the Wagner group, a Russian private military company that has been fighting worldwide, began conducting close air support missions as they are one of the most dangerous operations in Russia’s air force today.


Wagner’s involvement in the conflict has allowed the Russian military to increase its capabilities and make significant gains.

However, Wagner’s activities have also raised concerns about the potential for further escalation of the conflict with the use of private corporations for fighting. 

The Russian Air Force has a risk-averse style in the war

The Russian air force has been operating in a risk-averse style. This is likely because the Russian military is not yet ready to take on full-fledged air combat. 


Lately, the Russian air force’s primary goals are to support ground troops and to protect Russian airspace. In fact, Russian pilots have been reluctant to venture too far from home.

They probably fear losing another aircraft, and they avoid flying over Ukrainian territory. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for Russia to supply its forces in the conflict zone. 

However, this cautious approach may change in the future as the Russian military continues to defeat Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region. For now, though, it seems content to play it safe.


The Russian Air Force has been struggling to maintain a strong presence in the skies

In any case, if Russia moves to strike Ukraine with all its air strength, not even the US support could stop the full force of Russia because Russia’s air force outmatches Ukraine in every respect.

Featured image credit: Su-25, Russia Air Force by Licensed under CC by 3.0