Researchers suggest that the length of the conflict in Ukraine has exposed the weak state of the Russian air force.

The Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank, has reported that the Russian air force needs to adequately train pilots and sufficiently utilize the qualified ones.

Reports indicated that due to limited flight hours and the common technique of providing instruction within units, the Russian Air Forces had fewer than 100 pilots who were completely trained and up to date.

However, the Russian air force is making an even more hazardous decision regarding its future. They send instructor pilots to fight in the war, resulting in future pilots needing more experienced instructors to learn from.

As indicated in the report, which encompasses events from February to July, the relocation of instructors from their flying institutes to the front lines has also hindered the capacity to create new pilots. The Ukrainian military has observed an increase in both young and old pilots in the VKS, with old pilots being sent back to frontline services.

It is customary in several air forces to transfer experienced pilots from active duty to instructing inexperienced pilots. For example, the decline of the Luftwaffe’s pilot quality significantly contributed to Germany’s defeat in World War II, as they were obligated to deploy their instructor pilots to battle roles due to the increasing desperation of the situation.

Sukhoi Su-35S
Russian Air Force, RF-81719, Sukhoi Su-35S (Source: Anna Zvereva/Wikimedia Commons)

Russia is also utilizing its veteran pilots in battle without relenting. The Russian Air Force (VKS) has a military culture that assigns more hazardous tasks to the most experienced personnel, which has resulted in a disproportionate decrease of these professionals, thus diminishing the efficiency of the VKS and its capacity to educate new aviators, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report.

A vital factor in the dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv is the mutual agreement to exchange prisoners, with Russia striving to secure the release of its former pilots.