Ukraine Plans Air Force Overhaul

Ukrainian MiG-29, seen during Clear Sky 2018 military exercise. Image

The Ukrainian military is looking to procure new fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles over the coming years.

In the Air Force Vision 2035 document, recently approved by the Military Council of the Air Force Command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the Ukrainian Air Force has specified its intention to procure a multirole 4th generation fighter jet able to both guard Ukrainian airspace from hostile aircraft and  deliver strikes on enemy positions.

Ukraine will procure new fighter jets in phases over the coming decade, with a tender for initial batches of the aircraft appearing in either 2021 or 2022, Ukrainian media reported. Only a small number of jets will be acquired in this phase, while a larger purchase is being planned for the period 2025-2030.

As much as UAH200 billion ($7.5 billion) could be spent on the fighter jet. Kiev will turn to suppliers in the U.S. and Europe to examine options to fill the requirement.

The Air Force aims to significantly overhaul its inventory over the coming decade. The transport fleet is to be consolidated with a new medium transport aircraft expected to begin entering service between 2027-2035. This project could cost around UAH40 billion. Moreover, the Air Force will overhaul its trainer fleet, which presently operates the L-39, at a cost of UAH35 billion. New unmanned systems should be procured as part of the project. These are estimated to cost around UAH30 billion.

Furthermore, the Ukrainian Air Force is to consolidate its air-defense capabilities under a UAH50 billion plan that will see it acquire a new medium-range surface-to-air missile system. Defense Express reported that at least four regiments should be equipped with a new system and ready for operational duties by 2030. Ukraine will also expand its domestic air-defense missile production (as much as UAH15 billion).

The modernization plan is highly ambitious. The price estimates cited in Ukrainian media come to UAH370 billion – though the actual costs could vary depending on the supplier chosen for procurement objectives –  against the current annual defense budget that totals a little over UAH100 billion. Moreover, while the spending allocated specifically for rearmament and modernization in the defense budget has seen significant growth in recent years, it still amounts to only about one fifth of the annual defense budget.

For the Ukrainian Air Force to meet the goals outlined in the project, it will require close support from the Ukrainian government.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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