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Ukraine says its air force is bigger now than when Russia's full-scale invasion began

Ukraine says its air force is bigger now than when Russia's full-scale invasion began
  • A Ukrainian officer said its air force had more planes than in February 2022.

  • He told VOA it was because engineers maintain them well. Allies also sent Ukraine their planes.

  • Ukraine's air force is far smaller and weaker than Russia's, but has avoided being wiped out.

A Ukrainian air force officer said Ukraine had more combat planes available than it did in 2022, Voice of America reported.

Yevhen Bulatsik, commander of the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade, made the comments with VOA, an outlet funded by the US government.

Bulatsik praised engineers for being able to rapidly fix damaged planes, meaning that minor damage did not end up being a big drain on resources.

On top of that, Ukraine's allies in central and eastern Europe have sent some of their planes, which are older Soviet models.

"At the moment, we have much more of them than we had at the time of the full-scale invasion," Bulatsyk said of Ukraine's planes.

He didn't give a figure, and there is no public data on the size of the Ukrainian air force.

(Russia first invaded parts of Ukraine in 2014, but expanded its attack into a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.)

"All crews are prepared to perform tasks day and night, in simple and difficult weather conditions," Bulatsyk said, praising technical and support crews.

Ukraine's air force was initially vastly outnumbered by the Russian air force, and some expected it to be destroyed.

The US said Ukraine, in the early weeks of the invasion, had around 56 operational planes, mostly old Soviet models, that flew round-the-clock missions to repel the invasion.

The numbers were later reinforced by fighter planes from Poland and Slovenia, mostly Soviet-era Mig-29s.

After months of lobbying, Ukraine's allies also agreed to provide some US-built F-16 fighter jets. Ukrainian pilots have been training on them, and are due to enter combat service in 2024.

The Ukrainian air force lost around 69 aircraft in the first year of the invasion, but Forbes reported that it has been able to replenish its fleet. That was partly by restoring old, grounded airframes and partly thanks to new planes provided by allies.

Throughout the conflict, Ukraine has improvised to lessen Russia's advantages in equipment and manpower.

At sea, it also scored a series of victories over the Russian navy despite having hardly any ships of its own.

But overall the picture for Ukraine is bleak — it recently retreated from the key town of Avdiivka, and is struggling to field enough fresh soldiers.

US aid has also dried up, leaving Ukraine perilously short of ammunition.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have been blocking attempts to send further aid, most recently obstructing a $60 billion aid bill that passed the Senate and has support from the White House.

Read the original article on Business Insider