US general claims Ukrainian successes in air – media
Ukrainian forces have prevented Russia from gaining air superiority over the frontline in their country, while causing serious damage to Russian air power, a four-star US general reportedly claimed.
Soviet-built anti-aircraft defenses fielded by Ukraine have managed to shoot down at least 55 Russian aircraft, Gen. James Hecker told the annual Air Force Association conference on Monday, as reported by Politico. The outlet did not elaborate on whether the general provided any evidence to support the massive claim he made.
The general, who commands the US Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA), spoke during a panel discussion about the conflict in Ukraine. Hecker also said Ukraine’s use of anti-aircraft weapons has denied Russian ground forces the air support they needed. He said the situation has surprised Western military analysts.
Ukraine is seeking to beef up its air defenses, and the general suggested that eastern European nations, who have old stockpiles of Soviet weapons, should transfer them to Kiev.
The top US official also claimed that Ukraine’s air force has mostly remained intact since the start of the conflict, retaining about 80% of its fleet, contrary to reports from Russia.
The Russian military claims to have inflicted heavy losses on the Ukrainian air force throughout the conflict. As of Monday, it said it had destroyed 294 Ukrainian warplanes and 155 Ukrainian military helicopters.
Part of the panel discussion focused on US efforts to arm Ukrainian warplanes with AGM-88 High Speed Radiation Missiles (HARM) anti-radiation missiles, which were recently included in US arms shipments to Kiev.
Hecker said fitting the US-made weapons to Soviet-made aircraft “was quite an effort” for US military contractors and acknowledged that shooting them from F-16s was a better option, according to Breaking Defense outlet.