Things are looking up for Ukraine’s air defense — opinion

Sweden transferring two ASC 890 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft is a momentous event for Ukraine’s Air Force.

This was a complete surprise for me. I dropped everything to comment on this event, because this is what I’ve been dreaming about since the beginning of the war and started talking about the need for these aircraft from early 2022.

This is a necessary component of a robust air defense. Because we’re the only country bordering Russia that doesn’t have a modern air defense system. What do we mean by a modern air defense system? Its elements are, first of all, airborne radars that see everything from above. They see deep into enemy territory. They’ll be able to monitor possible approaches to our territory and enemy missile launches. In case of massive strikes on our territory, they actually monitor the flight of Russian cruise missiles and Shahed drones in real time. And that’s why our air defense simply goes up in its capabilities. One plane wasn’t enough for us, so they’ll send two. Because the territory is large, and one plane cannot fly around the clock. It must land, refuel, and undergo maintenance. On March 5, Poland received one of the two planes of the same type that is being provided to us. At the same time, Sweden is decommissioning some of these planes and replacing them with more modern aircraft.

We remember how Ukraine’s Air Force destroyed Russian A-50 flying radars [AEW&C aircraft]. So, answering the question how vulnerable the Swedish ASC 890 aircraft is, I’ll say it depends on where it’s based and used. I don’t think these aircraft will fly even close to the front line, because of dangerous that would be. I think they will be 100% used for air defense. That is, not to fly closer, let’s say, 320-330 kilometers to the contact line. Or to the border, where the border remains free of hostilities. In general, I’ve already read such information that these planes will be based in Poland and will only fly over Ukrainian territory. This is a possible option, let the Russians then decide whether it’s our or the Polish plane during another mission, which of them flies over our territory. And most importantly, there’s a flight crew, combat control operators can be trained in a quite short period of time. This is very important.

Read also: Sweden’s pledge to supply ASC 890 aircraft: Potential impact on airborne surveillance and control

I would like to comment on some experts’ statements who say there’s no doubt now, the puzzle has been solved, information about the training of Ukrainian pilots in France for air combat, the methodical and successful destruction of Russian radars and air defense systems by Ukrainians, and now information about the transfer of long-range radar surveillance aircraft, — methodical work is underway to ensure that the F-16s [fighter jets] will clear the sky of Russian targets, and not just act as platforms for strikes against ground targets. I don’t agree with this opinion. This is an optimistic opinion, and it’s very nice to hope that we’ll be able to achieve these goals. But we shouldn’t forget that the range of the radar installed on this aircraft is about 350 kilometers, while the Russian R-37M missiles are capable of covering a distance of 300 kilometers. The Russian S-400 systems are also capable of launching missiles at up to 300 kilometers, while the operational altitude of this aircraft is 6,000 meters. That is, the S-400 will see it perfectly.

Therefore, I don’t think these aircraft will take part in any combined air operations. It will be protected, and I think its best role is in air defense. That is, why should we use it to fight against, for example, Russian carriers of glide bombs? These bombs are dropped from an altitude of at least 14,000 meters. Ground radars see perfectly the aircraft dropping them, from the moment of take-off and gaining altitude. So why should we bring the air radar here as well?

Read also: Ukraine failed to take out all the missiles in Russia's latest mass attack due to a lack of air defense

There’s an assessment of experts from Defense Express [security consultancy] who say that Ukraine has been dreaming of getting its own radar surveillance aircraft for all 33 years of its independence. We didn’t have anything like that because we were poor. The cost of such an aircraft is upwards of $250 million. Seriously, no one was thinking about Saab at that time, everyone was thinking about AWACS [Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems]. This is the first point. Second point: for the first 10-15 years [of Ukraine’s independence] our doctrine was still geared to fight NATO allies. So why should NATO give us flying radars, when all our weapons and all combat units were directed against NATO countries? We had a joint agreement on maintaining state secrets with Russia. That’s why we didn’t have these aircraft earlier. The West didn’t believe in us at that time. It was only when the war began that the level of trust increased a lot. And before that, they didn’t really trust us, especially in terms of supplying complex military radio electronics. They didn’t trust because they were afraid that we would hand it over (or sell) to Russia.

Can we still hope that the United States will provide us with at least one AWACS aircraft? No, we don’t need that, in general. They’re already selling them off, replacing [Boeing] E-3s [Sentry AEW&C aircraft] with E-7s [Wedgetail]. And we don’t need these old U.S. planes, because first of all, we don’t have the flight crew to operate them. They are based on the Boeing 707 [jet aircraft]. We’ve never had these aircraft, and it will take us a long time to train both pilots and combat control operators for them, and besides, that’s a completely different radar. It’s better for us to train for these new systems and get not one, but five or six Swedish airborne radars, and then we’ll have full coverage of our territory. In that case, if one or two of them are damaged or destroyed—this is a war, after all—the quality of air defense won’t collapse.

We’re bringing the voice of Ukraine to the world. Support us with a one-time donation, or become a Patron!

Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine