In the preliminary of the Russian-Ukraine war, U.S. military experts urged western nations to assist and aid Ukraine’s air defense in response to the possibility of Russia annihilation of Ukraine’s airspace. With Ukraine’s stockpile of outdated, Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and its stock of shoulder-fired stingers against Russia, with its advance technology and a fully mobilized aerospace force, there was an expectation within the public of Russia establishing complete air control over Ukraine. However, Russia failed to defeat the Ukrainian Air Force.
According to a New York Times report, “Military analysts had expected Russian forces to quickly destroy or paralyze Ukraine’s air defenses and military aircraft, yet neither has happened.” Defense Intelligence Agency anonymously reported that Russia failed to implement a successful attack against Ukraine air space through its issue of missile success being below 40% which ultimately forced Russia air forces to take a defensive stance. So how did Russia fail against Ukraine’s outdated airspace force and what led to Ukraine being in the offense? First, Russian failures were driven by an inability to quickly integrate intelligence with targeting processes. Second, Russia was unable to conduct unbiased battle damage assessments (BDAs) to inform war plans. Lastly, Russia was unable to deconflict air space control between the Russian Aerospace Forces and Russian Army’s ground-based air defenses.
Russia underestimated Ukraine’s anticipation of its air power and preparations to counter it. Ukrainian forces had trained extensively to disperse aircraft and air defense units out of major airfields something that Russian intelligence could not fully comprehend. Ukrainian troops started vacating several critical air defense assets and ammunition stockpiles and operated armored vehicles to deter Russian aircrafts. It was notable that Ukraine Air Force had adapted prior to Russia’s invasion and despite its inferiorities in its airspace, was more prepared than what western nations and Russia assumed, leading to a lesson for all nations to rethink strategic and tactical goals regarding airpower.