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Russiɑn Su-27 Vs Ukrɑiniɑn Su-27: Fierce Bɑttle in Ukrɑine Sky

With the same aircraft, Ukrαine and Russiα are battling head to head. The Su-27 is being used by both sides. The Ukrαiniαn version of the Su-27 has not been improved or modernised to the same extent as the Russiαn variant. To keep up with the Russiαn Su-27s, Ukrαiniαn pilots must rely on their brains and talents.

The Ukrαiniαns are flying a variant of the Su-27 that first appeared after the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. Although the Ukrαiniαn Su-27 possesses similar manoeuvrability and agility to the Russiαn Su-27, its avionics, sensors, and armaments have seen better days. The Russiαn flankers are using new R-37M missiles compared to the R-27 the Ukrαiniαns employ on their Su-27. The R-37M has five times the range compared to the R-27. The R-37M also flies at MACH 6 and is one of the best air-to-air missiles deployed today. However currently only Su-35, MiG-31 and Su-57 can carry R-37M AAM

Are Ukrαiniαn  Su-27s Obsolete?

The Ukrαiniαn Su-27 has fallen behind in numerous other areas. Military Watch said the “use of active rather than semi-active radar guidance on missiles, thrust/weight ratio, endurance, electronic ᴡᴀʀғᴀʀᴇ systems and countermeasures, cockpit displays, and perhaps most importantly data links for network centric ᴡᴀʀғᴀʀᴇ, all provide the modern Russiαn Su-27 derivatives with a tremendous advantage.”

Ukrαiniαn Su-27s Are Taking Losses

Ukrαiniαn Su-27s have reportedly been shot down by friendly fire, Russiαn S-400 surface-to-air missiles, and by Russiαn Su-35s. In the early days of ᴡᴀʀ one Ukrαiniαn Su-27 was shot down by Russiαn S-400 over Kyiv from 150 km away. The Su-27s are roughly three decades behind in technology. These airplanes require high levels of maintenance to keep them in the air. The Ukrαiniαns have had difficulty getting spare parts from Sukhoi since 2009. Of course, now with the ᴡᴀʀ those components are not available. Before the invasion only 19 Ukrαiniαn Su-27s were airworthy.

Retired Ukrαiniαn Colonel Oleksandr Oksanchenko told Air and Space Magazine that the Su-27 is impressive in the air. “It’s powerful and accelerates well, especially on take-off. The Flanker is very sensitive in the rolling plane—you pull the stick to the side just a little, and it already wants to perform a barrel roll. When you pull up vertically, the Su-27 zooms across the sky, because of the great amount of available thrust,” he said.

The Human Factor

Ukrαiniαn pilots will have to fly like Oksanchenko to survive Russiαn fighters and air defenses. Their Su-27s are inferior so that means the quality of the pilot matters more. Human error can lead to disaster. But Ukrαiniαn fighter pilots have achieved their most important objective – airspace over Ukrαine is still contested. The Russiαns may have more updated airplanes, but Ukrαine’s pilots have courage and moxie. Ukrαiniαn pilots’ exploits have been a surprise to many analysts who believed that Russiα would make quick work of the Ukrαiniαn air force. But the Ukrαiniαns have fought back. Inexperienced pilots have in some cases flown with high skill. They are making good use of countermeasures such as employing flares and chaff to confuse enemy missiles.

Flying With Little Warning

It has still been difficult for the Ukrαiniαn pilots. They often receive little oral briefings to prep for missions and must jump in their airplanes and fly with little warning and not much rest. Many airstrips have been destroyed in the eastern part of the country, so they are taking off from runways that are shorter in the western portion of Ukrαine.

Can the Ukrαiniαns keep their underdog status and still take on Russiα? The Su-27 will help as it is a quality airplane despite not being updated as much as the Russiαn version. Ukrαiniαn pilots are motivated by their patriotism, high morale, and iron will. We’ll have to see how long they can survive in the skies.