(Editor’s Note: The U.S. Air Force operates the largest fleet of aircraft in the world, but there are sources that claim the Navy may operate more “aircraft” when UAV are included in these numbers, especially the smaller MQ-11 drones which the Marine Corps flies.)

Russia and the US have stood as world superpowers for decades. While the US Air Force is the second largest air force in the world (behind, sigh… the US Navy), Russia’s Aerospace Forces are not to be dismissed. Although the Russian AF has not been fully brought to bear in the invasion of Ukraine, there is a lot of combat aircraft waiting to be flown.

The big question is: why hasn’t the Russian Air Force established air dominancy? Not for lack of equipment, at least according to GlobalSecurity. Though lagging well behind the US, the Russian Air Force fields nearly 1,600 fighter and attack aircraft, including roughly 125 bombers. Compare that to Ukraine’s minuscule 98 fighters and attack aircraft (no bombers), and you begin to see the gulf. (These numbers do not show helicopter or drone totals, only fixed or swept-wing fighter, attack, and bomber aircraft).

Ukraine did operate bombers as recently as 2000. Russian-made Tu-22M Backfire bombers, to be precise. They were dismantled as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and START I Treaties. They were dismantled with the assurance that Russia would not attempt to invade or annex the country.