Researchers suggest that the length of the conflict in Ukraine has exposed the weak state of the Russian air force.
The Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank, has reported that the Russian air force needs to adequately train pilots and sufficiently utilize the qualified ones.
Reports indicated that due to limited flight hours and the common technique of providing instruction within units, the Russian Air Forces had fewer than 100 pilots who were completely trained and up to date.
However, the Russian air force is making an even more hazardous decision regarding its future. They send instructor pilots to fight in the war, resulting in future pilots needing more experienced instructors to learn from.
As indicated in the report, which encompasses events from February to July, the relocation of instructors from their flying institutes to the front lines has also hindered the capacity to create new pilots. The Ukrainian military has observed an increase in both young and old pilots in the VKS, with old pilots being sent back to frontline services.
It is customary in several air forces to transfer experienced pilots from active duty to instructing inexperienced pilots. For example, the decline of the Luftwaffe’s pilot quality significantly contributed to Germany’s defeat in World War II, as they were obligated to deploy their instructor pilots to battle roles due to the increasing desperation of the situation.
Russia is also utilizing its veteran pilots in battle without relenting. The Russian Air Force (VKS) has a military culture that assigns more hazardous tasks to the most experienced personnel, which has resulted in a disproportionate decrease of these professionals, thus diminishing the efficiency of the VKS and its capacity to educate new aviators, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report.
A vital factor in the dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv is the mutual agreement to exchange prisoners, with Russia striving to secure the release of its former pilots.
Even if an air force has experienced pilots, it could still be hindered by outdated planes or a scarcity of spare parts. On the other hand, if the air force does not possess capable pilots, then it is likely that there are other issues.
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report detailed Russian ground crew personnel dilemmas. One major issue was their failure to take off the protective covers from aircraft sensors in advance of battle missions above Ukraine, which was an issue of negligence and had a severe effect on performance. This implies that there may be problems with discipline and command structure among maintenance personnel in the Russian Air Force.
A further indication of weak discipline is the tendency to place munitions near planes stored at Russian aerodromes. With Ukraine now utilizing drones to hit airfields hundreds of miles inside Russia, neglecting to secure explosives may result in more expensive aircraft and pilots being sacrificed.
According to RUSI, the magnitude and intricacy of Russian air activity in Ukraine have significantly decreased since the start of the confrontation due to the many issues they are facing.
The ramifications for future Russian aerial missions over Ukraine are even more worrying. As a peace agreement or armistice does not appear close at hand, the war may persist for a prolonged period, which could mean that Russia will be engaged in an extended air operation.
The lengthy air combat operations – such as the Battle of Britain, the Allied air raids on Germany, and the airstrikes of the US on North Vietnam – necessitated meticulous administration to prevent the aircraft’s and crew’s exhaustion.
Russia ought to ensure a continual presence of qualified pilots and well-organized ground personnel if it wishes to be successful in its endeavors in the sky above Ukraine. However, if it chooses to expend its supply of veteran pilots for unforeseen advantages, the atmosphere in Ukraine will not be hospitable to Russian air strength.