Ukraine still has a “significant majority” of its military aircraft available nine days after Russian forces started their invasion of the country, a US defense official said on Friday.
Vastly outmatched by Russia’s military, in terms of raw numbers and firepower, the fact that Ukraine’s own air force is still flying and its air defenses are still deemed to be viable has surprised military experts.
“The Ukrainians still have a significant majority of their air combat power available to them, both fixed-wing and rotary wing as well as unmanned systems and surface-to-air systems,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official added that Ukrainian aircraft had suffered some loses, including being destroyed by Russian forces, but did not give details.
After the opening salvos of the war on Feb. 24, analysts expected the Russian military to try to immediately destroy Ukraine’s air force and air defenses.
Russia is still flying through contested airspace.
Ukrainian troops with surface-to-air rockets are able to threaten Russian aircraft and create risk to Russian pilots trying to support ground forces.
Ukraine’s ability to keep flying air force jets is a visible demonstration of the country’s resilience in the face of attack and has been a morale booster, both to its own military and Ukraine’s people, experts say.