Editor’s Note:  SOFREP is pleased to present this article from best-selling author Colonel Eric “Ferris” Buer, USMC (Ret). –GDM

Since the Russians invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian Federation has pushed its forces beyond the point of exhaustion and, in their lust for a quick victory, have left themselves vulnerable. The Ukrainian forces, having defended valiantly, are now themselves engaged in a risky counteroffensive. With the war in Ukraine often being fought with dated tactics, dated equipment, and highly centralized command and control, the destruction and devastation brought by both sides have been obvious.

Picture cities turned to rubble and the countryside set ablaze. It paints a drab landscape reminiscent of 1940s Europe. With no military or political end in sight, Ukraine needs a new strategy besides fighting Russian tanks with Ukrainian tanks and infantry squad against infantry squad. The need focuses on modern and available tactical aviation assets. With a limited supply of capable attack jet aircraft and even with a more expansive use of drones, Ukraine is without a credible means to project air power as a component in a combined arms strategy.

What can or should the Ukrainians bring to this ongoing counteroffensive outside of long-range artillery, unguided missiles, heavy machine gun, and tank fire? The answer is rotary wing or helicopter airpower beyond the highly touted modern strike fighter. These airpower assets need to be purpose-designed and built for a counteroffensive that will last months and likely bleed into next year. The Ukrainian air forces should focus spending, of the international community’s significant financial contributions, on procuring and employing both fixed-wing attack aircraft, such as the F-16C Fighting Falcon, and modern attack and special mission helicopters.

Mi-24 Hind Attack Helicopters in Action

Ukrainian air forces need to immediately begin converting their Cold War helicopter fleet into a modern, sustainable, and reliable inventory of Western-designed attack and special mission helicopters. For 70 years, helicopters have provided unparalleled mobility and capabilities to US and NATO forces. Mission-focused platforms equipped to execute precision attacks, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and special operations are what can accelerate Russian military and political exhaustion and their eventual expulsion from Ukraine.

While the Russians have used attack and utility helicopters during their initial invasion, they have been used sparingly over the past several months. Even with their moderate success against Ukrainian armor moving during this current counteroffensive, they face a dim future. Russian helicopters currently fly in obvious locations and in predictable patterns in support of Russian ground forces. Used as airborne artillery while flying primarily during daylight hours, the Russians are predictable. These employment tactics make them vulnerable to Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery fire.