Ukrainian air defense blunted Russian air superiority early in the war, limiting Moscow’s ability to provide air support to its ground forces, US Air Force Genenal James B. Hecker revealed.
Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Space & Cyber Conference, Hecker added that the Russian Air Force has lost 55 Russian fighters in the war, a majority of them during the first few weeks of the war.
“That’s what you get if you don’t have air superiority,” Hecker said.
“We, as Western countries, won’t stand for that. We won’t stand for those casualties. We need to make sure, as we move forward, that we’re able to gain and maintain air superiority,” he said, referring to the estimated 80,000 Russian casualties by early August.
Ukraine Retains 80 Percent of Aircraft
The general explained that restricting Russian air power allowed the Ukrainian air force to retain 80 percent of its pre-invasion aircraft seven months into the war.
Hecker said that the Ukrainian Air Force relied chiefly upon their Soviet-era SA-10 and SA-11 surface-to-air missiles to counter the Russian Air Force, adding that the US cannot provide the missile systems to Ukraine due to lack of availability.
Ukraine Aircraft With Anti-Radar Missiles
The general confirmed that Ukrainian Air Force fighters were quickly outfitted with US-delivered AGM-88 High-Speed Radiation Missiles.
He added that the anti-radar missile’s introduction forced the Russians to “turn off” their radars, allowing the Ukrainian Air Force air superiority.
“Even though you don’t get a kinetic kill … you can get local air superiority for a period of time where you can do what you need to do,” Breaking Defense quoted him as saying.
The US Defense Department confirmed the Raytheon missile’s shipment to Ukraine in early August, days after battlefield images began circulating on social media.