Peter Offers Some Info on the Planes of the Ukraine Invasion

This week’s effort is a tough one to write, for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to overwhelm you with technical minutiae, Loyal Reader. I don’t want my editor to think that this is a special edition of “Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft”, nor do I want to base this column on a foundation of footnotes. As usual, I will try to put some things into perspective and address a couple of issues that may be of interest.


Something I should have mentioned in last week’s column is that both combatants in this war operate much of the same equipment, which obviously poses difficulties in battlefield recognition. The increased speed and 3 dimensional “scope” of aerial combat adds its own exponentially greater complexity to the mix. And air combat, by its very nature, is a most intense experience. Military “aviating” is a constant challenge, as the successful aviator not only must know all about their “jet”, but must also have some familiarity with the capabilities and tactics of the “opposition”. It should be noted that these items are subject to constant change in the crucible of combat.

E.C.M., “j-stars”, “jtids”, E.C.C.M., NCTR, “wild weasel”, “AWACS”, “harm”, “NVGs”, REFORGER, “Red Flag”, “chaff”, RHAW, BVR, “amraam”, “Bitching Betty” and “CSAR”.

Loyal Reader, that last sentence didn’t make any sense, did it? Well, it is a selection of just a few of the acronyms and code names that modern military aviators have to deal with. While flying. Look some of them up, very interesting.

And let’s not forget that this has to be accomplished while trying to keep up with the rest of the formation, watching out for natural hazards such as mountains and “man made” hazards such as power lines and buildings. There are also missiles and antiaircraft guns and aircraft which are attempting to intercept the formation and prevent it from carrying out its mission.

While all this is going on, the pilot has to be attuned to the status of his aircraft. The instrument panel requires complete vigilance, there’s always the possibility of a sudden fire or loss of hydraulic power, which could spell disaster. 

There are other warning devices, both visual and aural which need to be heeded as well. They indicate the presence of radars which guide the weapons which threaten the aircraft, and can even designate to the pilot which radar poses the most dangerous and immediate threat.

Here I am attempting to illustrate just how “busy” it can be in the cockpit of a modern military aircraft, so that you may be able to understand the situation a bit better. Except that I forgot to mention that while all of this is going on, the pilot needs to be aware not only of how much fuel is available, but where the nearest tanker aircraft is located. (After all, if the aircraft runs out of fuel, it will be a long walk home.)

Intensive training is required in order to enable the pilot to be able to operate the aircraft to its full capacity with a chance of survival in aerial combat. A lot of this training is done in simulators, which is both less expensive and safer, but at the end of the day, it is necessary for the pilot to take to the air to get the opportunity to apply what has been learned to real life. That can only be done by performing tactical exercises, such as BFM, low level training or IFR, which is an especially interesting task when performed at night. (And there, I’ve given you two more acronyms to look up.) Only by building up a solid foundation of flying time and experience can a pilot give themselves the best chance of survival in aerial combat. I have read in several places that many Russian pilots don’t have sufficient flying time to be effective in this current campaign. 

Turning to the situation in Ukraine, most of the world supports the valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people in a number of ways. For the purposes of today’s column, I am going to concentrate on the military aviation related items and shed light on a few questions you might have. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the organization is still providing support to the country, within certain limits.

For example, NATO has been employing AWACS aircraft just over the border, in order to monitor and direct the operations of the alliance’s jets, a force composed of aircraft from a number of nations. Many of these aircraft are based in forward areas, such as the Baltic states. For example, American F-35s, British Typhoons and Canadian CF-18s are all components of this response, supported by British Voyager tankers and American RC-135s, inter alia. The question has arisen about the possibility of NATO declaring a “no fly zone” over Ukraine, which would give the Ukrainian forces some freedom to operate unopposed. I personally feel that that could lead to an escalation of hostilities, as it essentially means that NATO aircraft would have to come in contact with Russian forces, with potentially grave consequences. I can only hope that diplomacy and economic pressure will allow this situation to be resolved without having to resort to such drastic measures.

Now I have also read that Poland has offered to supply their fleet of MiG-29s for the use of Ukraine’s military. In exchange, they would want the United States to provide Poland with F-16s. The U.S. has made similar transactions in the past, for example, shipping Phantom jets to South Korea in exchange for South Korea providing its F-5s to South Vietnam. There is no doubt that there are sufficient F-16s available in storage in the desert to enable this deal to be completed, but I wonder whether the political will exists to make it come to fruition. 

I am now going to discuss “The Ghost Of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian pilot who ostensibly destroyed 6 Russian aircraft in the early stages of the war. As an aside, there is no doubt that the Russian forces are taking heavy losses during this “special operation”, losses inflicted by platforms ranging from fighters to anti aircraft weapons to a grandmother armed with a jar of pickles!

“It was a can of tomatoes, not a jar of pickles”, says Ukrainian Grandmother who downed a Russian Drone

It’s also a fact that a veteran Ukrainian pilot, well known to the international aviation community since he had been the Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 display pilot one season, was shot down and killed in the first week of the war. I think that the facts have been somewhat blurred by “the fog of war”, and that “The Ghost Of Kyiv” doesn’t exist. However, I don’t think that that’s very important. It’s simply an effort to build up the morale of the populace, which should be one role of the government in that situation.

Finishing off this week, I see that the Ukrainians have had some success against Russian ground troops by using attack drones. Apparently most of their ground attack aircraft have been destroyed, and there are some interesting ideas being floated around to address the problem, including transferring a number of U S.A.F. A-10 “Warthogs”. I am not sure about the practicality of that particular act, as it would require some time to train crews to operate them, time which Ukraine may not have. 

As I said earlier, I do hope that diplomacy and economic pressure can resolve this crisis.

I personally have made preparations to donate to the Red Cross, and I encourage you all to do what you can to ” lend a hand” during this troubled time.

See you soon 


A confirmed Cat person, Peter dabbled with being a water boy, a paper boy and an altar boy before finally settling on a career with the Canadian federal government.  Once, in his youth, he ate a Dutch  oven full of mashed potatoes to win a 5 cent bet with his beloved sister Mary’s boyfriend. (Of course he was much younger and a nickel went a lot farther!))

He has retired to palatial “Chez Montreuil”, which he shares with his little buddy CoCo the Fashionable. He is blessed to have the beautiful Betty in his life. He is not only a plastic aircraft modeller, but a proud “rivet counter”. Military aviation and live music are among other interests of his, and he tries to get out to as many shows as he can. He will be here for your enlightenment whenever the stars align. Profile photo courtesy of Pat Blythe, caricature courtesy of Peter Mossman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: