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Russian warplanes are flying about 20 times more missions than their Ukrainian counterparts, though many never enter Ukrainian territory and simply lob long-range missiles from inside Russian airspace, an US official said, Defense One reported.
Russia’s roughly 200 daily Ukraine-connected sorties compare to about five to 10 a day by Ukraine, which is down to about 56 operational warplanes, the official told reporters at the Pentagon.
There are several reasons for the conservative use of airpower over Ukraine on both sides, the official said. First, Russia has surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, in enough locations that it can shoot down Ukrainian jets in almost all parts of the country, and Ukrainians have held their jets back.
But the Russians are also being cautions, keeping their own aircraft outside of Ukraine and launching long-range missiles from fighter jets and bombers outside of Ukraine’s borders instead, Defense One reported.
Russia has also shown “a general risk aversion and a cautiousness in the air”, the official said, despite their country-wide SAM coverage. The Ukrainians have their own SAMs and shoulder-fired missiles, the official said.
On Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that it has shot down a total of 57 Russian aircraft and seven Russian drones. That number could not be independently verified.
The Ukrainians have relied on drones, especially to attack Russian convoys.
“They have made effective use of drones, which are cheap,” the official said, adding: “They can fly below radar coverage by the Russians… They’re using them with terrific effect, particularly against Russian ground movements.”