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The return of the Russian Air Force to fight in Ukraine. But it doesn’t make much of a difference.

The return of the Russian Air Force to fight in Ukraine.  But it doesn’t make much of a difference.

After missing a crucial two weeks in Ukraine, the Russian Air Force is back. Videos that surfaced online this week appear to confirm an airstrike on Ukrainian positions by Russian Air Force fighter-bombers.

This is good news for the Russians as they continue to roll back the determined Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in southern and eastern Ukraine beginning in late August.

There is bad news for the Russians, too. The same videos depicting Russian strikes on Ukrainian forces in Sibern in the eastern Donbass region, southwest of the Russian-occupied city of Lysekhansk, confirm that the Ukrainians are in control of Sibern, which until last week was under Russian control.

In other words, Russian warplanes are back on the battlefield. But only to bomb the positions abandoned by the Russian ground forces.

Spurn’s broad daylight bombing on or before Thursday included at least two attack aircraft – one apparently two-engine, two-seat Su-34 – as well as a drone that recorded the attack, likely due to after-strike damage. evaluation.

In the video, a Su-34 and later aircraft, flying hundreds of feet above the ground, drop what appear to be unguided parachute bombs. There is no evidence of Ukrainian air defense activity, but the warplanes shoot flares as they exit, just to be safe.

The target of the raid appears to have been Ukrainian positions around a gas facility near Spern. It is unclear whether the aircraft hit anything of military value – no visible secondary explosions.

But other Russian strikes on the same sites were at least somewhat successful. At least one Ukrainian soldier was wounded or killed in artillery shelling in the same area around the same time. A Russian drone captured the aftermath of that attack, as Ukrainian forces pulled out the dead or wounded and put them in an armored vehicle for evacuation.

Thursday’s air raid or earlier was surprising because for more than two weeks after the Ukrainian brigade counterattack – first in the south in occupied north Kherson, then in the east outside the free city of Kharkiv – the Russian Air Force seemed to be missing in action.

There was visual evidence of Ukrainian Planes flying close air support missions, but there is no evidence of this Russian Planes do the same. This is despite the Russians having 300 or more warplanes in and around Ukraine, and the Ukrainians having only a hundred or so.

Analysts attributed this disparity to the enduring strength of Ukraine’s air defenses, recently reinforced by dozens of former German Gepard mobile rifles, as well as waning The Russian Air Defense Force and Ukrainian MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters continue to attack them with US-made anti-radar missiles.

Doctrine was also an issue. Ukrainian pilots exchanged tactics with NATO pilots. This should encourage them to think and act independently. Intelligence provided by the Americans and other allies could also help Ukrainian pilots respond to changing conditions on the ground.

On the other hand, Russian doctrine enslaves combat pilots to pre-planned target groups. In Russian operations, warplanes are essentially inflexible artillery. They simply send the explosive to certain coordinates, regardless of what may actually be at those coordinates at the time of the strike.

So it seems that Russian pilots couldn’t keep up with the rapidly changing front lines in late August and early September. The Ukrainians advanced south a few miles here, and a few miles there – impressive enough.

But in the east, a dramatic breakthrough east of Kharkiv by several zealous Ukrainian brigades led to the retreat of the Russian army’s entire position in northeastern Ukraineโ€”a thousand square milesโ€”in a matter of days. The retreating Russians left behind hundreds of chariots as well as many bodies of their comrades.

The Russian Air Force was powerless to intervene around Kharkiv. But as the Ukrainians expanded their gains further south into the Donbass, the Kremlin’s air arm became easier to direct and operate.

Ukrainian gains there have been slower and more upward. The advancing Ukrainian troops fell on the positions recently occupied by Russian troops, which are obviously well known to the Russian commanders. The Ukrainian battalions also seem to have advanced faster than their air defenses.

The Russians withdrew from Spirn on or about September 10. The Ukrainians moved – and soon came under attack from warplanes and artillery. But the Russian counterattacks around Spirn So far it hasn’t worked. The fighting continued until Thursday.

Yes, the Russian Air Force is back – in a sense. No, it has not been proven to be conclusive. Not even in one small corner of the war. Once Ukrainian air defenses enter the area, Russian airstrikes may equalize less effective.

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