Ukraine claims air successes as war enters fourth week

As the war in Ukraine enters its fourth week following Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukrainian forces are still claiming to have caused significant casualties in the past 96 hours with 22 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft shot down or hit during operations.  

While it has not been possible to independently verify the figures provided by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MOD), the claims depict a battlespace that is still being hotly contested on land and in the air. Social media videos purport to numerous incidents of Russian aircraft being struck by man-portable air defence systems, many of which are being funnelled into the country by NATO.

Ukraine Air Force
A still image of Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 fighters taken from a March 14 social media video from the Ukrainian MOD. It is not known when the video was shot. Ukrainian MOD social media

In figures released by the Ukrainian MOD on March 14, reporting figures from the previous 24-hour period, it was claimed that “four planes, three helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles” were hit by the Ukrainian Air Force, with information on the type of aircraft “being clarified”.

Continuing, the MOD stated that the 24 hours prior to 0600hrs on March 15 saw Russia lose “four helicopters, one plane” shot down, as well as the interception of a cruise missile. Figures from March 16 stated ‘three planes’ from Russia’s military, including two Su-34 multi-role fighters, shot down, as well as another helicopter, three “tactical UAVs” and two cruise missiles.

At the time of publishing, requests from Key.Aero for comment from the Ukrainian MOD regarding its successes had not been answered.

Since the start of operations began, Ukraine has claimed significant success in its defence of its territory against Russian forces. According to figures posted on social media on March 15 by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 81 fixed-wing aircraft, 95 helicopters, and nine UAVs of various types from Russia’s military have been lost in combat.

A March 16 update from the Ukrainian MOD stated 84 fixed-wing, 108 helicopters, and 11 UAVS, representing an increase in Russian of three, 13 and two aircraft respectively between March 15-16.

Justin Bronk, airpower research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said that the estimation for Russian fixed-wing losses was “between 15 and 20 fast jets so far”, based on those to have been visually confirmed as wreckage or seen to fall in Russian controlled or Belarusian territory

“For [Russian] helicopter losses, confirmed losses currently stand at around 30 - and might be slightly higher in reality,” Bronk told Key.Aero.

Russia has kept a tight lid on revealing its own military losses, although in recent days has begun to provided details. However, while one side inflates successes so too will the other claim to have suffered less than might be the case.  

The war, as it stands, appears set to grind on, with Russian advances slowing in recent days to a near standstill in the north of Ukraine, while advances have been made in the south of the country as Russia attempts to secure a land corridor from its Crimean forces to those operating in the east.

The TASS news agency in Russia has reported that Ukraine’s Kherson Region in the south of the country was now “fully under control” of Russian forces, according to a Ministry of Defence announcement on March 15.

Meanwhile, a fourth round of economic sanctions by the European Union against Russia saw the targeting of ‘key companies in the aviation, military and dual use, shipbuilding and machine building sectors’, according to a March 15 release from the European Council.

Russia and neighbouring Belarus has been hit hard by sanctions from Western and other global powers, as the outcry over the invasion of Ukraine continues. However, both countries have moved to secure key lines of material support to help mitigate the impact.

During bilateral meetings on March 14, Russian officials announced that they were “confident” that “illegitimate economic sanctions” will not hinder development of Russia-Belarus ties, according to an official release.

Belarusian officials meanwhile said they were “counting on Russian support”, seeking for debt restructure and the fixing of country’s natural gas prices in roubles, current with wholesale gas prices for Russian regions.

On defence, officials said that they were looking to remove “administrative barriers” in military-technical cooperation, and the need to take “a very detailed look at co-operation in the military-industrial sphere.”