Assessment of the deterrent effect of Ukraine's air defense (2023)

This report first appeared as part of Hudson'sRe: Ukrainenewsletter series. To subscribe,click here.

Nedenfor Hudson Senior FellowKan Kasapogluoffers a military situation report on the war in Ukraine.

1. Evaluation of Russian Airpower

In the initial stages of its invasion of Ukraine, Russian air power fell short in two crucial tasks. It failed to achieve air superiority and failed to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. The inability of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) to mount a robust SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) campaign proved costly. VKS' deficiencies, combined with Ukraine's dispersed air defenses and effective surface-to-air missile (SAM) capabilities, strained Russian air power. Worse for Moscow, its lack of precision-guided munitions forced Russian pilots to fly at lower altitudes. As a result, Ukraine's MANPADS (man-portable air defense systems) intercepted Russian aircraft at lower altitudes,scored sensational killsof advanced Russian platforms.

(Video) Ukraine war, changing nature of aerial warfare, Russia's losses & lessons for Indian Air Force

VKS' failed SEAD performance left many of the Ukrainian Air Force's critical facilities operational, including command-control hubs, ammunition depots, and airstrips. Thus, while outmatched by the VKS in air strikes, the Ukrainian Air Force has managed to fly low-altitude sorties for short periods to date, exploiting ground clutter and using terrain masking to its advantage.

As previous editions of this report have explained, Russia's Su-35S and Su-30SM aircraft, equipped with long-range R-77-1 air-to-air missiles, and respectivelyN035 Irbis-E and N110M Bars-Mradars, outclasses the Ukrainian Mig-29 and Su-27 fleet with itsR-27R/ER missiles. Advanced Russian aircraft perform regularlycombat air patrols (CAPs)- during which they defend an airspace against enemy aircraft - between altitudes of 20,000 and 26,000 feet. These aircraft, as well as Su-34 tactical bombers, also carryL-175 "Khibiny"electronic warfare that jams Ukrainian platforms' sensors and in-flight communications.

Russian air defense is also strong. Its long-range S-400 SAM systems, empoweredaf Podlet 48Ya6-K1 radaradapted to detect low-altitude aircraft, have proven effective against the Ukrainian Air Force. Field reports and interviews with Ukrainian airmen indicate that Podlet radar has assisted Russian SAM systemsscorekills against aircraft flying over 150 kilometers away at altitudes below 50 feet. Su-35S combat air patrols at mid-altitude levels have used R-37 air-to-air missiles to intercept Ukrainian aircraft at even greater ranges, markingkillsas far as 177 kilometers away. Along with frontline SAM systems such as the SA-17 and SA-15, Russia's battle-scarred air defenses pose a serious threat.

To deter Russian raids, the Ukrainian armed forces make extensive use of Soviet-era air defenses, including more than 100 S-300/SA-10 and Buk-M1/SA-11 launchers. These have been at the center of the fight against Russian missile and drone salvos for much of the duration of the conflict. However, these systems are beginning to starve for a dwindling number of missiles. While the Air Force of Ukraine has so far managed to record an impressive kill ratio,their limited numberremaining interceptors can cause them to conserve their missiles for high-priority targets.

2. Russia maintains its arsenal

In the early stages of the conflict, Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies assessed that Russia's stockpile of weapons would quickly face depletion. According to this thinking, the protracted conflict would hamper Russia's military strategy of wearing down Ukraine with drones and missiles. As the conflict has progressed, this assessment has been shown to be flawed. Faced with an urgent operational tempo amid a protracted conflict, Russia has done three things to keep its arsenal stocked.

(Video) The Ukraine Air War - The Russian campaign & does Ukraine need Western jets?

First, Russia has relied on older technology that is less advanced but available in large quantities.S-300 air defense missilesfor example, have proven extremely dangerous when converted to land attack roles. While the modified S-300s lack accuracy, they pursue a quasi-ballistic trajectory that puts overwhelming stress on air defenses. Likewise, VKS now fires the Kh-22 anti-ship missile, originally acarrier-killer tipped with a powerful warhead, into Ukrainian population centers. On 14 January 2023, the missile killed 45 people in a single strike after hitting aresidential area in Dnipro.

Second, as the Hudson InstitutesUkraine military situation reportseries has warned in previous editions, the Russian defense industry has upgraded itsavailable FAB-500 dummy bombswith slide set. Although these modernized air-to-ground munitions lack precision, they have achieved a range of about 44 miles. Meanwhile, Russian defense industry continues to circumvent Western sanctionsand produce advanced systems, albeit at a slower pace.

Third, Russia has benefited from Iran's generosity. Iranian-made Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 cruise missiles have been terrorizing the Ukrainian people. These drones are comingwith affordable price tags, as cheap as $20,000, and in very large numbers thanks to Iran's efficient drone production lines.

These three factors have allowed Russia to continue to threaten Ukraine with drones and missiles. Two additional dynamics bear monitoring. First, should Beijing become involved in arming Russia,it can choose to transmit ZT-180floating munitions that would pose an additional threat. Second, UN Security Council Resolution 2231 imposes only time-limited restrictions on Iran's missile program. These restrictions are set to expire on October 18, 2023. The Western intelligence community should therefore monitor any missile transactions between Russia and Iran, especially for Fateh-110 derivatives that can be transferred in large numbers and could destroy Ukraine.

3. Ukraine requires improved air defense

Faced with these threats, Ukraine requires improved air defense. Its arsenal of Soviet SAM systemsrunning nowon a dwindling supply of interceptors, while Russia's airstrikes defy Western expectations. The Russian military continues to acquire drones from Iran, and open source defense intelligence shows it has recently used dynamic assets with different flight paths in mixed strike packages. Air-launched and naval-launched cruise missiles, aeroballistic missiles and hovering munitions unleashed from Krasnodar and Bryansk are now striking Ukrainian cities in operational harmony.

(Video) Russian Official Shocked! NATO Sends F-16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine to Take on Putin

Mixed strike packages overwhelm not only interceptors, but also the sensor network of Ukraine's air defense systems. On 9 March 2023, the Armed Forces ofthe Russian Federation launchedtheir largest missile and drone salvo to date. At least 84 missiles of various types (e.g. Kh-22, Kh-101/Kh-555, Kalibr, Kinzhal, Kh-31P, Kh-59 and modified S-300s) and at least eight Shahed-136 cluster munitions knocked Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force was only able to intercept 34 missiles and no more than half of the hovering ammunition.

Even worse, NATO nations of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are reaching their limits in supplying the Ukrainian military's arsenal with Soviet-era wiretapping. That is why NATO capitals should accelerate Ukraine's transition to Western SAM systems while keeping Kyiv's air defense edge from the Soviet Union operational for as long as possible. Without resupply and gradual replacement, Ukraine's battle-hardened air defenses will remain vulnerable to Russian attacks.

M-SHORAD (Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense), which integrates existing guns, missiles, rockets and sensors, is also critically important ahead of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' long-awaited counteroffensive. Without this capability, Ukraine risks sending mechanized brigades into the country unprotectedteeth of VKSwhile not being able to hold its fixed defensive positions and rear areas.

These considerations highlight the importance of Western arms transfers to Ukraine. This week, the Ukrainian military shot down two advanced Russian aircraft - an Su-34 and an Su-35 - and two rotary-wing platforms, at least one of which was a valuable Mi-8 MTPR-I electronic warfare helicopter. (While the Ukrainianthe military initially denied responsibilityAs the incident took place in Russian airspace around Bryansk, available evidence suggests that Russian friendly fire is unlikely to be responsible.NASAMS and IRIS-T, strategic SAM systems – especially Patriot – hold great potential.

4. The potential of the patriot

The Patriot surface-to-air missile could be just the weapon Ukraine needs. Latest news on deliveries ofAmerican,Dutch, andGermanPatriot packages, as well as Franco-ItalianSAMP/T systems, has rightly made headlines. Open source writings suggest that the US and Germany aretransfers one Patriot battery eachto Ukraine, while the Dutch send two launchers. This combination would allow Ukraine to operate at least ten to twelve launchers and potentially even more.

(Video) Massive Airstrike on Bakhmut: 13 Russian arsenals blown up by Ukrainian army!

The Patriot's most recent large-scale combat success was defending the Arab Gulf states against missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthis. Open source evidence suggests an impressive interception rate for the system,especially against ballistic missiles. However, the Houthi drones and cruise missiles caused problems for the Patriots with their small radar signatures and complicated flight paths. Patriot is also an expensive weapon.

Such an expensive American-made weapon system has therefore become a magnet for Russian attacks. The Kremlin recently launched Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles carried by Mig-31 interceptor aircraft to eliminate the patriots on Ukrainian soil. The Patriot system has reportedly caught military analysts off guardintercepted a Kinzhal missile, while atat least one Patriot launchersuffered damage.

Kinzhal, the aeroballistic variant of the Iskander ballistic missile baseline, climbs to Mach 4 immediately after launchand then quickly picks up speed, with Russian sourcesclaims it can accelerate up to Mach 10. While Russia promotes it as a hypersonic weapon, almost all ballistic missiles reach hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 at some point in their path. It has excellent maneuverability and an irregular flight path.

Like the Patriot, the Kinzhal is an expensive weapon system and one that Russia possesseslimited capacity. Nevertheless, one can be sure that the Russians have marked the Patriots as their top priority target in Ukraine.

Subscribe to Hudson'sRe: UkraineNewsletter here


What is Ukraines air Defence system? ›

Two key systems used by Ukraine since the start of the war have been the Soviet-era long-range S300 and medium-range Buk systems, also known as the SA-10s and SA-11s.

Can Ukraine produce S 300 missiles? ›

“The S-300s work very well. The fact is that they were not produced in Ukraine; that is, we do not have the production of S-300 missiles, so we use stocks.

Is there still a Ukrainian Air Force? ›

There's one main reason the Ukrainian air force still exists. In the early hours of Russia's wider war on Ukraine in February 2022, Kyiv's squadrons fled their big air bases and dispersed to stretches of highway across the country.

What is the most advanced air Defence system? ›

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS™, is a highly adaptable combat-proven medium-range air defense solution.

How many fighter jets does Ukraine still have? ›

Flight International's 2022 almanac of air forces listed the Ukrainian service as having 43 MiG-29s and 26 Su-27s in its fleet.

Which country has best missile Defence system? ›

The United States Armed Forces have deployed its Air Defence System in some of its most strategic locations like Hawaii, Guam Island, Wake Island, etc. South Korea also deployed THAAD to protect its territory from a potential attack from North Korea. The missiles of this system can reach up the speed of Mach 8.2.

What is the most effective anti aircraft missile system? ›

RAFAEL's IRON DOME™ is the world's most deployed missile defense system, with more than 2,000 interceptions and a success rate greater than 90%. The system can protect deployed and maneuvering forces, as well as the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and urban areas, against a wide range of indirect and aerial threats.

How much does an S-300 missile cost? ›

The estimated cost of each missile fired, for example, by Ukrainian ground-based air defenses such as the indigenous S-300, is up to $1 million. Even less advanced systems, such as U.S.-made Stinger man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) launchers, still cost tens of thousands of dollars per missile.

Which country has the best fighter jet in the world? ›

For starters, the United States is often considered supreme in terms of producing highly sophisticated aircraft, like fighter jets. The F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-18 Super Hornet, and F-22 Raptor are just a few examples of top fighters.

How many Russian fighter jets lost in Ukraine? ›

Two fighter jets and two helicopters reportedly downed in region northeast of Ukraine border. Moscow appears to have lost four military aircraft in downings on Saturday in the Bryansk region of Russia, some 50 kilometers northeast of the border with Ukraine.

How many MiG-29 does Ukraine have? ›

On Friday, the Slovak government approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member to heed the Ukrainian government's pleas for warplanes to help defend against Russia's invasion.

Can Patriot shoot down hypersonic missiles? ›

The Patriot system was designed before hypersonic weapons were sent to battlefield and Raytheon has not said publicly that the is effective against a missile flying at hypersonic speeds (anything above five times the speed of sound).

Can a Patriot missile shoot down a jet? ›

The system was successfully used against Iraqi missiles in the 2003 Iraq War, and has also been used by Saudi and Emirati forces in the Yemen conflict against Houthi missile attacks. The Patriot system achieved its first undisputed shootdowns of enemy aircraft in the service of the Israeli Air Defense Command.

Which is better Iron Dome or Patriot? ›

Iron Dome is for close-in defense against short-range rockets and drones," he said. Ellison also spoke with Newsweek on Friday and explained that Israel's Iron Dome system serves as a "standalone system," while the Patriot missile defense system can "mesh in with other systems around it."

Who gave Ukraine fighter jets? ›

PRAGUE (AP) — Slovakia's government on Friday approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to heed the Ukrainian government's pleas for warplanes to help defend against Russia's invasion.

Who has given Ukraine fighter jets? ›

On Thursday, Poland said it would become the first NATO state to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

How many F-16 does Ukraine need? ›

Ukraine has said it needs about 200 F-16s, so the numbers would work out.

How far can US nukes travel? ›

Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).

What is the US best anti missile defense? ›

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is a highly effective, combat-proven defense against short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. THAAD is the only U.S. system designed to intercept targets outside and inside the atmosphere.

Which is the No 1 missile in the world? ›

RS-28 Sarmat Satan 2

It's a collection of space launchers and intercontinental meterstick missiles created by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. One of the most hazardous missiles in the world, which can carry three warheads and was the first Soviet MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle).

Does the US have a viable missile defense system? ›

The United States deploys two systems that can shoot down incoming missiles in the midcourse phase of flight: The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system and. The Aegis defense system.

Does the US have an effective missile defense system? ›

The only program designed to protect the entire United States homeland from a long-range missile attack is the GMD program. GMD has a failing test record: a success rate of just 55 percent in highly scripted tests, including three misses in the last six tries.

What is the No 1 air-to-air missile? ›

The correct answer is option 1 i.e Astra missile. Key Points: ​Astra missile: ​ Its all-weather air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

How much does 1 hypersonic missile cost? ›

The unit cost of a missile “similar to” the Air Force's AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missile would be about $15 million a copy over a large production run, but a comparable Army ground-launched system would cost almost three times more, according to a new report from the Congressional ...

What is the cost of a Tomahawk missile? ›

The Tomahawks – jet-powered cruise missiles used primarily by the US and United Kingdom – will cost an estimated $895m. “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the defence department added. Hypersonic missiles: The new arms race?

Can S 300 hit ground targets? ›

The system can destroy ground targets at a range of 120 kilometres (75 mi), and when launched on a ballistic trajectory, can reach up to 400 kilometres (250 mi). Its vertically-launched missiles allow for the engagement of flying targets in any direction without traversing the launcher.

What is the US most advanced fighter jet? ›

1. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. source: In 2006, the F-35 embodied the latest in combat aircraft development.

Who is the best fighter pilot in the world? ›

A new book examines the life of the WWII German ace. Luftwaffe fighter pilot Erich Hartmann was exceedingly good at aerial combat.

How many ka 52 shot down in Ukraine? ›

Back in January, Ukraine's air force said Kyiv's military had shot down three Ka-52 helicopters in just 30 minutes. The aircraft had been flying over the disputed Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the air force said in a post shared to Twitter.

Did Ukraine shot down SU 35? ›

On the evening of 21 May, Ukraine's air defence forces shot down a Russian Su-35 fighter jet.

How many fighter jets does USA have? ›

Current Active Inventory: 5,209 Aircraft
TaskHours per Day
4 more rows
Dec 4, 2022

How many MiG-29 have been shot down? ›

Yugoslavia received 14 MiG-29Bs and 2 MiG-29UBs from the Soviet Union in 1987 and 1988. During operation Allied Force, six MiG-29s were shot down, while another three and one MiG-29UB were destroyed on the ground by NATO, One MiG-29 was also lost in a noncombat related accident.

How many fighter jets does NATO have? ›

Number of military aircraft in NATO in 2023, by type of aircraft
CharacteristicNumber of military aircraft
Fighter jets/interceptors3,398
Transport aircraft1,506
Combat helicopters1,439
Ground attack aircraft1,108
3 more rows
Mar 30, 2023

How many f22s does the US have? ›

In December 2011, the 195th and final F-22 was completed out of 8 test and 187 production aircraft built; the jet was delivered on 2 May 2012. The curtailed procurement would force the USAF to operate the F-15C/D into the 2020s in order to retain adequate numbers of air superiority fighters.

Does Ukraine have missile Defence system? ›

"Patriot is one of the world's most advanced air defense systems, and it will give Ukraine a critical long-range capability to defend its airspace. It is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft.

How effective is Ukraine air defense? ›

“We place them at appropriate distances in the overall air defense concept. This gives the result that we see with our own eyes when we count the number of enemy targets shot down,” he explains. “The percentage is constantly increasing, now the efficiency is over 80%.” He says the current success rate has no parallel.

Does Ukraine have Patriot Air Defense? ›

“Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine.” One of the systems was donated by the United States, while another was jointly gifted by Germany and the Netherlands.

How far can a Patriot missile go? ›

Patriot Guided Missile
Patriot missile
PropellantSolid-fuel rocket
Operational rangePAC-1: 56 mi (90 km) PAC-2: 99 mi (160 km) PAC-3: 19 mi (30 km) against ballistic missile PAC-3 MSE: 37 mi (60 km) against ballistic missile
Flight altitude79,500 feet (24,200 m)
Maximum speedPAC-1: Mach 2.8 PAC-2/PAC-3: Mach 4.1 (5000 km/h)
18 more rows

How many Patriot missile systems does the US have? ›

The Army said it currently has 16 Patriot battalions.

Which country has the best Defence system in the world? ›

United States. The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world's most dominant economic and military power.

Is Ukraine running out of air defense? ›

But while Ukraine largely kept its power sector running it has severely depleted its air-defense capacity in the process. Now, the country needs urgent assistance from Western allies to prevent an aerial onslaught from Russia.

How does Ukraine intercept missiles? ›

Ukraine uses US-made air-defense system to intercept Russian ballistic missile. Ukraine used a U.S.-made air-defense system to intercept a Russian ballistic missile, the first known time that it has been able to block one of Russia's modern missiles.

Can us intercept hypersonic missiles? ›

Not even the U.S. currently has an adequate defense system to take down hypersonic missiles. Air defense systems, such as Patriots and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, are capable of taking down ballistic missiles that reach hypersonic speeds, but only over small areas.

Can a Patriot intercept a hypersonic missile? ›

Ukraine says it has for the first time used a US-made Patriot air defense system to intercept a Russian hypersonic missile. Mykola Oleshchuk, Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, said on Telegram Saturday: “Yes, we have intercepted the 'unmatched' Kinzhal,'” adding an emoji of the Ukrainian flag.

Can Patriot shoot down planes? ›

Capable of defeating both high performance aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles, it is the only operational air defense system that can shoot down attacking missiles.


1. Xi Jinping's 48-hour plan to invade Taiwan: 'China's military is expanding' | Defence in Depth
(The Telegraph)
2. 20220330 Full Committee Hearing: "National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in Europe”
(U.S. House Armed Services Committee)
3. The REAL Truth About the Air War over Ukraine
(Ward Carroll)
4. Great news to the Ukrainian army: 'GAME CHANGERS' finally deploys to Ukraine!
(Oracle Eyes)
5. MWI War Council: The War in Ukraine - An Operational Assessment
(Modern War Institute)
6. An Assessment of Russian Defense Capabilities and Security Strategy
(Center for Strategic & International Studies)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Last Updated: 07/07/2023

Views: 5263

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Birthday: 1993-07-01

Address: Suite 763 6272 Lang Bypass, New Xochitlport, VT 72704-3308

Phone: +22014484519944

Job: Banking Officer

Hobby: Sailing, Gaming, Basketball, Calligraphy, Mycology, Astronomy, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Rev. Leonie Wyman, I am a colorful, tasty, splendid, fair, witty, gorgeous, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.