Despite having one of the largest aircraft inventories in the world, Russian air force fixed-wing combat aircraft have been noticeably absent from the Ukrainian battlefield, prompting some observers to question the invading force’s fleet readiness.
Five days into its launch of the bloody invasion of Ukraine and Russia troops had yet to take control, according to U.S. defense officials.
“The Russians have not achieved air superiority over the whole country,” a senior defense official told reporters Monday. “Ukrainian air defenses remain intact and viable both in terms of aircraft—and missile defense systems—and they’re engaged.”
U.S. defense officials, however, say it’s too soon to make sweeping conclusions.
“Make no mistake, Mr. Putin still has at his disposal significant combat power,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Monday afternoon. “He hasn’t moved all of it into Ukraine, but he’s moved the majority of it. He still has a lot that he hasn’t moved into Ukraine. It’s combined arms. And it’s not insignificant.”
Despite initial setbacks, “the Russians will learn from this,” he added.
Combat Air Power
How does Russia’s air force compare to others?
When it comes to combat air power, the gold standard is the U.S. Air Force, which, according to the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft (WDMMA), has the highest rating based on modernization, logistical support, and attack and defense capabilities.
“The USAF features a broad mix of aircraft types as well as balance strengthened by overall numbers [quantity],” WDMMA said. “Many of its products are locally sourced thanks to the U.S.’s massive industrial base. It also maintains dedicated strategic-level bombers, CAS aircraft, a sizeable helo and fighter force [of which many are multirole types], and hundreds of transport aircraft to reach anywhere in the world.
“Beyond this is a large training, tanker, and special-mission force. The service is also set to be reinforced in the near-future with hundreds of units still on-order.”
In its most recent ranking of 124 air services in 98 countries, WDMMA ranked the U.S. Air Force as the top air service owing to its “TrueValueRating” (TVR), or a value formulated by assessing an air service’s strengths and weaknesses.
U. S. Air Force – 5,209 active aircraft inventory:
- Attack aircraft: 1,976 units
- Support aircraft: 1,692 units
- Training aircraft: 1,541 units
- Future: 2,419 units
- TVR: 242.9
Russia Air Force – 3,829 active aircraft inventory
- Attack aircraft: 1,507 units
- Support aircraft: 1,837 units
- Training aircraft: 485 units
- Future: 820 units
- TVR: 69.4
Even with its size, Russia’s air force inventory is less than that of just the U.S. Army Aviation division, which has a reported current active inventory of 4,328 aircraft, according to WDMMA.
|2022 WDMMA Global Air Power Rankings|
|Rank||Force||Current Active Inventory|
|1.||U.S. Air Force||5,091|
|3.||Russian Air Force||3,829|
|5.||U.S. Marine Corps||1,211|
|6.||Indian Air Force||1,645|
|7.||People’s Liberation Army Air Force (China)||2,040|
|8.||Japan Air Self-Defense Force||779|
|9.||Israeli Air Force||581|
|10.||French Air Force||658|
|NOTE: The WDMMA annual ranking utilizes a formula which takes into account values related to total fighting strength of the various air services of the world. The formula produces the ‘TrueValueRating’ (TvR) helping to definitively separate each power based on—not only overall strength—but modernization, logistical support, attack and defense capabilities an so on.|