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Russia may be trying to get its air force in the fight by luring Ukraine into moving its air defences, war experts say

Russia may be trying to lure Ukraine’s air defense systems away from the front line so its air force can play a bigger role, war analysts said....CONTINUE READING

The influential Institute for the Study of War pointed on Wednesday to Russia’s increasing missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s energy facilities.

It theorized that Russia was doing it to bait Ukraine into moving its air defense systems away from the front lines.

Without the defenses in place, Russia could deploy its warplanes with less concern that they’ll be shot down.

“Russian forces may be intensifying strikes to further pressure the Ukrainian command to deploy air defense systems away from the front in order to more safely intensify aviation operations in support of ground operations,” the ISW said.

Ukraine has largely held back Russia’s air force despite having a much smaller and older air force itself.

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By using its air-defense systems — both Soviet-era and modern, Western-donated supplies — Ukraine has rendered crucial parts of its air space too dangerous for Russian jets to enter.

Though Russia can still launch long-range attacks with its planes, the dynamic strongly limits the overall damage it can do.

Instead of risking its planes over the front lines, Russia has focused air strikes on towns and cities across Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying residential buildings.

Air warfare experts told Business Insider that Ukraine’s ability to deny Russia’s air force has been a hugely impressive achievement — significant enough to stop Russia from winning the war soon after its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

However, the strategy is one that Ukraine may not be able to continue successfully as air defense supplies run low.

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House Republicans have been stalling $60 billion in further aid for Ukraine, and soldiers there say they can feel the impact, as they are forced to ration ammunition and not hit targets.

If Ukraine doesn’t have enough air defenses, Russia’s air force could quickly make its power felt, the experts warned BI earlier this year.

Justin Bronk, a Russia and air warfare expert at the UK’s Royal United Services Institute, said Ukraine’s actions meant Russia’s air force “has, up to this point, been largely irrelevant to the conflict in terms of the battlefield.”

But he warned that could change.

“Ukraine’s ability to sustain air defense coverage over the front lines and the immediate area behind them: If that is not sustained, Ukraine could lose the war quite quickly.”

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The ISW warned in February that Russia appeared to temporarily establish air superiority over the town of Avdiivka, likely it had done so since its full-scale invasion started. [The town soon fell.]

The ISW warned that it would be “devastating” if Russia could keep doing that.

Ukraine’s defenses near the front lines in the east have been able to shoot many Russian jets down, notching an impressive kill streak in February.

Ukraine appears to have at least one US-made Patriot battery in that area, and at least one protecting the capital city, Kyiv.

But Ukraine says those missiles are running out, too, and asked allies for more of the systems.