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Ukraine: an ugly truth

12th April 2022 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in Belfast


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Bucha in the aftermath of the Russian withdrawal. (Photo: Ukrainian MoD)

The way in which Russia has gone about invading Ukraine defies logic and leaves military analysts with more questions than answers.

In the last editor’s comment for Shephard's Air Warfare magazine, this writer looked at how Russia would likely approach invading Ukraine by focusing on dismantling C2 infrastructure and relying on land-based equipment to assert control, less so on air power. In reality though, much of what has happened since the invasion began beggars belief and confounds all manner of military analysts’ forecasting. Most depressing are the tragic scenes from Bucha, a town near Kyiv, which are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court in order for evidence of war crimes to be gathered.

Some experts have not been so surprised to see Russia again resort to civilian bombing campaigns as it did in Syria, but that hardly makes these things any less disturbing. Such events were supposed to be consigned to history but now play out on television in regular news bulletins or, even worse, on social media in real time.

The atrocities believed to have been carried out by Russian forces are of a kind that make writing about the different aircraft being lost or destroyed across Ukraine feel almost inappropriate, but firm analysis of the subject is taken up in Air Warfare's Eastern European helicopters feature, which interestingly looks at whether countermeasure failings have influenced the high rate of shootdown incidents.

If there are any new threat assessments or points of operational interest for the US Army to ponder as it looks from afar at rotary-wing vulnerabilities in Ukraine, while preparing to decide on a best FLRAA fit, those are addressed in the magazine's FVL feature. Safe to say, the service remains highly confident that new helicopters under consideration, invested in over the past ten years and heading for production in the near term, are a world away from Russian-made legacy types which have underperformed and been consistently overwhelmed by MANPADS.

Russian fighter jet exports are also detailed and set against the new reality of US and European sanctions being applied, customers turning their backs on Moscow and pulling out of lucrative contracts. Questions are also asked about the feasibility of Su-75 (Checkmate) production and whether self-reliance will be enough to sustain an all-new fighter jet, with a claimed unit cost of only $30 million, without much evidence of past success from Russia (and not forgetting the engine troubles of the Su-57).

The ups and downs of HALE UAV manufacturing and how the Global Hawk has particularly excelled in recent years are detailed too, with consideration given to how operational tempo and demand for the platform has risen significantly around the Black Sea as a key source of ISR data to support NATO forces.

The latest achievements and future ambitions related to airborne networking and how it ties into multi-domain operations and linking of assets across domains are on the agenda in this issue too. Where once information stovepipes and connectivity problems beset operators and industry, is there now a case to be made for those issues being solved and all domains capable of offering a joined-up and formidable threat?

With all that has been happening in Ukraine, it has been tough to strike a balance between covering developments in the magazine and continuing to focus on other matters, but if you are interested in our additional coverage of the conflict, Shephard’dedicated microsite is the best place to look for it.

Tim Martin


Tim Martin

Tim Martin is Air Editor for Shephard Media, based in Belfast. 

Tim has experience writing …

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