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Russia’s long-term tactical air power viability wanes as war drags on: UK

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As the war in Ukraine persists well beyond Moscow’s initial expectations, the wear and tear on aircraft frames are expected to diminish the effectiveness of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ (VKS) sustained tactical air capabilities, a UK intelligence update reported on Thursday.

“The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have lost approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft in combat since February 2022. It has also been flying some of its combat aircraft types far more intensively than in peace time,” the British ministry of defense said in its war update.


It added: “All aircraft have a projected lifespan, in flying hours. It is highly likely that with this extra wartime use, Russia is eating into many of its airframes’ lifespans far more quickly than the VKS planned for. The need for extra maintenance is complicated by a shortage of spare parts because of increasing demand and international sanctions.”

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The UK ministry highlighted: “The VKS maintains the ability to surge sortie rates over occupied Ukraine. However, as the war continues much longer than the Russian Ministry of Defense originally planned for, wear and tear of airframes is likely to have reduced the viability of the VKS’s long-term tactical air power.”

“Long-term tactical air power” refers to the sustained capability of a military's tactical (short-range) aircraft, such as fighter jets and ground-attack aircraft, to operate effectively over an extended period. It encompasses the ability of these aircraft to maintain combat readiness, including factors like maintenance, repair, availability of spare parts, and pilot training, over the course of a prolonged conflict or campaign. This term emphasizes the importance of durability and endurance in maintaining air superiority and supporting ground operations throughout an extended military engagement.

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