Despite repeatedly complaining about its less than adequate air power, Ukraine is reportedly putting up an intense fight against advanced Russian fighter jets.
A Ukrainian Flanker was recently seen engaging in close aerial combat with an unknown Russian jet. A video posted on social media shows dramatic footage from one of these aerial engagements, including a rare sight of the modern fighter jet firing air-to-air missiles in an actual combat situation.
The video was posted by Matthew Luxmoore, The Wall Street Journal’s reporter in Ukraine.
A literal dogfight in the skies over Donbas tonight. Ukrainian SU-27 shooting flares toward a guided missile fired by a Russian fighter jet, not caught in this footage. The few residents remaining in Pokrovsk rushed out to gape at the spectacle and applaud. pic.twitter.com/GmJnO7HghR
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore) August 18, 2022
The higher echelons of the Ukrainian Air force and its fighter pilots have lamented the vulnerability of aging fighter jets that have to face off with cutting-edge Russian fighters.
Concerning the recent dogfight, Luxmoore remarked it was “an incredible sight over a part of Ukraine accustomed to relentless rocket and artillery fire and little action in the skies.” The breathtaking spectacle occurred over the East Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk.
Pokrovsk has undoubtedly experienced its fair share of warfare, which led to the evacuation of about 70% of its residents in the weeks following Russia’s invasion. Due to its proximity to a frontline that is generally fluid, it has suffered substantial damage since then.
However, aerial battles like the one witnessed on Friday are rare.
According to Luxmoore’s tweet, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flanker fighter is seen firing infrared flares to imitate a Russian fighter jet firing an infrared-guided air-to-air missile, or AAM. The Flanker is seen firing two AAMs in the brief footage.
Even though there have been a few close combat situations between the fighter jets of the two warring sides, a video purportedly showing a dogfight between Russian Su-35 and Ukrainian MiG-29 jets over the skies of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv caused quite a stir on social media in the initial days of the invasion.
Video showing what appear to be a pair of UAF MiG-29s, one of which zooms past the camera at tree-top level, reportedly in the Kyiv area. Note the dark smoke trial – it is not due to damage; the #MiG29's RD-33 turbofans are notorious for being smokey. https://t.co/xXW8S2yEkz pic.twitter.com/m0wRMzMapL
— Guy Plopsky (@GuyPlopsky) February 24, 2022
Despite Ukraine’s insistence that its air force pales in front of the Russian Air Force, a Ukrainian MiG-29 reportedly shot down a Su-35 in May, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
A MiG-29 pilot also revealed that when two IL-76 transport aircraft tried to deliver airborne troops, they were shot by MiG-29 and a Su-27 Flanker.
While the Ukrainian Air Force, predominantly composed of MiG-29, Su-27, Su-24, and Su-25s, has asked the US to provide better and more advanced fighters like the F-16, its Soviet-era aircraft have performed well. It could soon be getting the American A-10, as reported by EurAsian Times.
But for now, we look into what transpired in the video shared by the Wall Street Journalist.
Flankers In A Dogfight
The footage shared online does not show the targeted Russian aircraft. Therefore, there is a possibility of the aircraft in question being an armed rotorcraft or a drone. The journalist did not specify or give details about the Russian aircraft purportedly targeted by the Flanker.
Russia primarily employs other Flanker models, notably the multirole Su-30SM and Su-35S, but fewer upgraded Su-27s in dogfights. The idea that a Russian jet is launching the missiles cannot, thus, be ruled out.
Even without enemy fighters, a Ukrainian aircraft flying at this altitude near Russian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) would be extremely dangerous. Russia has reportedly deployed S-400 and S-300 air defense systems on the frontline.
The Ukrainian jet is observed launching two AAMs at the beginning of the video, at about the 1-second mark, when a tiny dark smudge is visible surrounding it.
Then, two fast-moving white dots that are then seen racing away from the aircraft start to separate and track on divergent, curved routes, most likely in the direction of their intended target, according to The War Zone’s assessment.
The trails of white smoke showed that one of the missiles was following a tighter track. The jet then appears to be heading away from the missiles.
EurAsian Times reached out to Aviation Analyst Prashant Prabhakar, who sounded a more skeptical note.
According to Prabhakar, “Dogfights – a term used to describe close-quarter aerial combat between fighter jets has been a major component of aerial wars at least until the early 90s. Modern terminology for the same is air combat maneuvering (ACM).
As significant as they are, such maneuvers are hardly routine in modern air combat, much less seen by civilians on the ground.
From what is reported, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flanker fighter is said to be deploying infrared flares to spoof an infrared-guided air-to-air missile, or AAM, fired by a Russian fighter jet, which again isn’t clearly shown in the video.
As fascinating as it looks, I’d still be more interested in a more, perhaps clear video of the said “dogfight” for a better conclusion. Dogfights in the 21st century? Sounds too good to be true? Perhaps it is. or maybe not”.
Ukrainian Air Combat
The Ukrainian Air Force currently uses the MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets for high-end combat, both of which are controlled differently. For instance, the MiGs have been used for air defense and air-to-ground missions.
Although the Su-27s can also fire rockets and unguided bombs, they are deployed as much as possible for air-to-air missions. The Flanker fleet, which was already smaller than the MiG-29 fleet, has shrunk much further as early losses make the Su-27 an overall more potent air defense asset.
The swing-wing Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer is another strike asset and, theoretically, the most capable aircraft available to the Ukrainian Air Force.
The Su-24s have proven to be significantly more difficult and expensive to repair than the other jets, which probably explains why Russia isn’t producing them in large numbers, unlike the MiG-29 and Su-27.
US Air Force representatives announced that discussions regarding allowing Ukraine access to Western aircraft such as aging A-10s had started. The slower aircraft, though, won’t be able to compete with the Russian heavy-duty fighters, according to Ukraine.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said on July 20 that Ukraine needed “quick and adaptable” combat aircraft like the F-16, not A-10s. If all goes well, US fighter jets could soon take to Ukrainian skies against Russia.