One year after Vladimir Putin unleashed his war machine for what he thought would be a short little war to crush Ukraine, Ukraine is still standing while his reputation as a master...
One year after Vladimir Putin unleashed his war machine for what he thought would be a short little war to crush Ukraine, Ukraine is still standing while his reputation as a master strategist and that of his ‘invincible’ war machine lie in tatters. While Russia has indeed succeeded in subjecting Ukraine and its people to misery and brutality on a scale not seen in Europe since 1945, none of the stated aims for Russia’s war – to subjugate Ukraine, to hobble NATO, and for a reborn Russian empire to dominate Europe – have been achieved. On the contrary, he has managed to unite Ukraine and made it Russia’s enemy for generations. By anchoring Ukraine to the West, he has unwittingly acted as the midwife in the rebirth of NATO, and he has destroyed the aura of power that once surrounded him and Russia’s armed forces while making Russia a pariah state in the eyes of the civilised world. One aspect of the war has been the failure of Russian airpower.
The aim of this article is to summarize, highlight and reflect on some of the major observations and findings of the Western analytic community so far concerning the air war in Ukraine – namely Russian airpower – particularly the performance of the fixed-wing branch (VVS) of the Russian aerospace forces (VKS).1 Therefore, this article is not primarily based on identifiable data from the field, but on data and judgements provided in major reports from the war, in combination with the Swedish National Defence Research Institute’s (FOI) almost continuous following of events since mid-December 2021. By necessity, such a compilation must sacrifice some nuance and granularity in order to achieve clarity and brevity.