LATEST UPDATE 15 APRIL 2014 | Russia has released one Ukrainian Navy Be-12 amphibious aircraft and two Ka-27 maritime helicopters from Saky Naval Air Station on the Crimea on 14 April 2014. Saky was seized by Russian forces in March 2014 when they took over the whole of the peninsula by force, however with almost no bloodshed.
The Beriev Be-12 arrived by air from Saky and landed on the Ukrainian Air Base at Nikolaev (Mikolaev), where Ukrainian Su-25s are based. Despite the not superb state the crew deemed the condition of the aircraft good enough for flight.
Moreover two Kamov Ka-27 maritime helicopters arrived in Nikolaev by rail from Saky, with a third expected soon. Beside the air assets Ukrainian Navy tanker vessel Fastiv and missile corvette Pryluky were also given back to Ukraine by Russia. Unable to make it on their own, they were tugged from Sevastopol at the Crimea to Odesa Naval Base. The working vessel Balta arrived in Odesa on 15 April 2014. None of these returned ships have air assets.
UPDATED 24 JANUARY 2015 (MARIUPOL AIRPORT) | The Ukrainian Air Force (Повітряні Сили or Povitryani Syly Ukrayiny) was already going through a big reorganisation that had a planned time frame from 2009 to 2015, before Russia pushed Ukrainian forces from the Crimean peninsula in February/March 2014 and started its active support of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine in March/April 2014. The military pressure from its former ally has shaken the entire process. Kiev has to change both the armed forces structure and assets, while it is fighting a war at home.
New plans call for more non-Russian aircraft and other hardware, with a preliminary new time frame of 2020 to 2030. The exact readiness levels of the Ukrainian armed forces are unclear. But we at Airheadsfly.com were the first media organisation to present you with an extensive and fairly accurate Overview of the Air Forces of Ukraine, right when the Russian-Ukrainian conflict started. This was clearly appreciated by our fans, as this overview was by far the most read article of our 999 posts of 2014.
Ever since then we try to keep this overview as up-to-date as we can, despite the situation in Ukraine being “fluid”.
The peacetime strength of the air force is projected to be 20,000 to 23,000 personnel, including 18,000 to 20,000 in uniform. The air force has much weaponry that is old and maybe only good for spare parts. This is acknowledged by the military brass who are aiming to level the force off at 120 combat aircraft supported by 50 to 60 transport and special mission aircraft. Officially the Ukrainian Air Force (Повітряні Сили or Povitryani Syly) can field 160 combat aircraft and 25 transport aircraft. The Ukrainian Army (Сухопутні війська or Sukhoputni viysʹka) operates the attack helicopter fleet and has a normal operational strength of 72 combat helicopters: Mi-24s and armed Mi-8s. The Ukrainian Navy (Військово-Морські Сили or Viysʹkovo-Morsʹki Syly) operates 3 Beriev Be-12s and 8 Kamov Ka-27s on a daily basis, and had many airframes in not-airworthy state in reserve.
Notice that in many official reports, YouTube video releases and on aerial footage like Google Maps the Ukrainian Airbases hold many aircraft that in real life are not even counted operational anymore by the Ukrainian Armed Forces themselves, not even before the conflict with Russia. Those are aircraft that have been decommissioned to save money and kept for possible future re-activation.
Based on the official numbers adapted to the current situation, these are these are the most positive force levels at the moment:
Strength Ukrainian armed forces January 2015
Base Source: Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Annual Defence Review 2013
adapted by Airheadsfly.com editors to the situation known to us as of 4 January 2015
Air Forces Command
Combat aircraft: about 76 to 80 of an official active 150. A total of 507 combat planes with all planes in reserve and mothballed included. Up to 30 MiG-29s previously based at Belbek, Crimean peninsula, have or might be returned by Russia. Russia kept at least 7 MiG-29 single-seaters and 2 MiG-29UB two-seaters that were in good flying condition.
Transport aircraft: 21 or less (was 24 or less before February 2014)
Land Forces Command
Main battle tanks: 686 (but many not operational)
Armoured personnel carriers: 2065 (but many not operational), 60 armoured vehicles from either the Marines or the Army were returned by Russia as of 25 April 2014.
Combat helicopters (Mi-24s / armed Mi-8s): about 20 to 40 of an official 72 fully operational. A total of 121 attack helicopters with all choppers in reserve/mothballed included
Artillery guns: 716 (but many not operational)
Naval Forces Command
Troops: probably about 4,000 – 6,000 of an official of 14,600
Vessels: 13, consisting of 1 frigate (U130 Hetman Sahaydachniy) with Ka-27, 1 missile corvette (U153 Pryluky), 1 gunboat (U170), 1 command & ELINT ship (U512), 1 command ship (U500 Donbass), 1 diving vessel (U700), 1 dry cargo barge (U763), 1 tanker (U760 Fastiv), 1 water-supply tanker (U756 Sudak), 1 work/degaussing ship (U811 Balta), 1 landing ship (Kirovohrad), 1 heavy-lift vessel (U852 Shostka) and four (patrol) boats (U172, U173, U241, U721, U855). On 2 May six smaller boats from the Crimea arrived in Odesa. Before the conflict the Ukrainian navy had 17 larger vessels, 1 submarine and 36 smaller boats.
Maritime patrol aircraft: 1-3 (before the Russian take-over officially 3 airworthy)
Anti-submarine helicopters: 5-8 (before the Russian take-over officially 8 airworthy)
Main battle tanks (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 41
Armoured personnel carriers (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 160, 60 armoured vehicles from either the Marines or the Army were returned by Russia as of 25 April 2014.
Artillery guns (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 47. As many as up to 15 artillery guns might have been returned by Russia as of 25 April 2014, part of a shipment of 25 larger pieces of material.
Air Mobile Forces Command
Armoured personnel carriers: 310 (but many not operational)
This map shows our overview of current active air bases of Ukraine without the Crimea peninsula and without the airbases and airfield taken by or under pressure of pro-Russian separatists (UPDATE 24 JANUARY 2015)
Kramatorsk Airbase in the far east is a reserve field, which still has enough infrastructure to restart fighter and/or helicopter operations. During the April 2014 uprising in the East of Ukraine, the base was taken by anti-government activists. According to various sources they were forced to flee the base when Ukrainian armed forces supported by at least one Su-27 Flanker and helicopters retook control. It marked the first time the Ukrainian Air Force fielded a Su-27 in combat. Locals and journalists on the ground report two Mi-24 Hinds on strafing runs, after which another pair of helicopters – presumably Mi-8s – inserted ground troops on the base which can now be used as a staging area for Ukrainian air operations in the eastern part of the country. On 25 April one of the Mi-8s deployed to Kramatorsk exploded on the ground with several wounded as a result. According to a spokesperson of the Ukrainian Armed Forces the fuel tank had been hit by a large calibre sniper bullet. Several eye-witnesses say to have heard multiple shots before the Hip blew up in flames.
The airfield of Luhansk was used by the Ukrainian military – mainly by transport aircraft and helicopters – as an operating and supply base since April 2014. But after Russian regular forces started to openly support the pro-Russian rebels – in late August 2014 Ukrainian government forces were pushed back from the important stronghold. As of September 2014 Luhansk – or what is left of it – serves no longer the Ukrainian armed forces.
Although a civilian location the airfield of Mariupol could have provided an excellent staging area for Ukrainian air assets. But during the third week of January 2015 pro-Russian separatist forces supported by up Russian regular troops (Moscow denies) took the airfield and started launching Grad missiles into the city, killing at least 20 on the first such strike on a market place in a residential area on 23 January alone. A possible loss of Mariupol would seriously shift the strategic balance in the region as it would open up the southern flank alongside the Black Sea coast to Berdyansk and further on to Melitopol. Mariupol also holds substantial industrial assets and a loss would be a next blow to the troublesome Ukrainian economy.
Fighter force Su-27 (“Flanker”)
The front point of the Ukrainian aerial combat force has been short on much the last decade. Combat pilots only spend about 40 hours per year in the air. Of the formidable Sukhoi Su-27 (Су-27) air superiority fighter about 16 are operational and another four could be returned to flying duty. These Fulcrums fly with the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade based at Myrhorod (Mirgorod), but the Ukraine military is revitalising Ozerne Airbase near Kiev as well for Sukhoi Su-27 and MiG-29 operations, with former monthballed aircraft returning to service. In 2014 some Flankers were even training from Zhytomyr Airbase slightly north of Ozerne Airbase.
Four Su-27s operated from Belbek Airbase at the Crimea peninsula (Krim) up to 24 February, to conduct security air patrols in support of the Olympic Games in Russian Sotji. As of 1 March 2014 the Flankers are said to have taken up Combat Air Patrol duties, as captured here by airplane spotter Andrey Rakul allegedly on 1 March 2014. Clearly visible are six R-27 (AA-10 Alamo-c) medium range air-to-air missiles and four R-73 (AA-11 Archer) short-range air-to-air missiles. Since we lack 100% confirmation of date and location the image might have been taken earlier, for example when Ukrainian Su-27 were flying CAP’s from Belbek.
Apparently none of the 39 MiG-29 Fulcrums (МіГ-29) was able to flee Belbek Airbase at the Crimea before Russian forces seized the airfield on 1 March 2014. Relocation would have been possible to the Western Ukrainian MiG-29 base of Ivano-Frankivska and the central MiG-29 base of Vasylkiv (Vasilkova) near Kiev. The Russians are slowly returning MiG-29s in pieces, but have kept possibly seven MIG-29s (possibly all seven upgraded MiG-29UM1s (МіГ-29МУ1)) and two MiG-29UB two-seaters. The total MiG-29 force available is now likely about 24 – 30 aircraft, with the possibility of returning another 10 to 20 of an official 60 to 80 remaining Fulcrums back into flying condition on relatively short-term notice. It is believed that at least 12 aircraft are operational at Vasylkiv. Belbek also has three L-39s that was spotted on two different occasions, by a TV crew and footage released on YouTube, after the take-over. The Russians kept those aircraft too. Other aircraft fly from the MiG-29 base of Vasylkiv in the Kiev region as well, with at least one Su-27 and a L-39 Delfin advanced trainer reportedly spotted there as late as 11 March 2014 during an exercise with officially a total number 20 flight hours during 37 flights performed during this tactical exercise. One MiG-29 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists east of Donetsk on 7 August 2014, a second MiG-29 felt victim to hostile fire on 17 August 2014 near Luhansk. As of November 2014 the Russian Air Force operates a fighter unit of 14 to 24 Sukhoi Su-27M2s and Su-30s at Belbek Airbase (SEE VIDEO HERE).
Ground attack Su-24 (“Fencer”)
For the ground attack role the Ukrainian Air Force relies partly on the somewhat “dinosaurish” Sukhoi Su-24M (Су-24М) Fencer-D tactical bomber, of which 6 are fully operational and another 9 to 17 could be airworthy or able to be restored to flying condition on a relatively short period of time. They fly from Starokostiantyniv with the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade. On 21 March at 15:15 local time one of the Sukhoi Su-24Ms crashed upon landing for a yet unknown reason. The crew – squadron commander Lt. Col. Dennis Plug and navigator Lieutenant Oleg Dudnik – sustained only minor injuries after ejecting from the plane. A board of investigators looks into the accident. Prior to this accident we put the number of available Su-24Ms on 16 to 24.
Of the official about 30 to 36 Su-25M/UB/UBM Frogfoot (Су-25) very capable close support aircraft, we estimate about 15 to 21 could possibly be ready to fight. They fly from Mykolaiv Airbase (Kulbabkino) just north of the Crimea, with 14 updated to M1 (Су-25М1) standard. This airbase might have additional fighter coverage at times by Su-27s and MiG-29s deployed there for the nearby ranges. Four Flankers and two Fulcrums were spotted as late as 4 April 2014. One Su-25 was shot down on 16 July 2014 – marking the first time this happened for an Ukrainian fast combat jet in the country’s history, with a second damaged by hostile fire. On 23 July 2014 two Su-25s were shot down very close to the border with Russia. Another Su-25 was downed on 29 August, over the Donbas region with the faith of the pilot undisclosed. Two more Frogfoots were lost in 2014.
Since 3 May 2014 the Ukrainian Army officially has about 43 Mil Mi-24P/V/PM Hind attack helicopters available of an official strength of 72 helicopters (armed Mi-8s included) that can be deployed for attack duties. But due to lack of funds the active force is estimated to be not more than 20 Hinds. Part of the rotary wing is based at Kherson, 130 km (80 miles) northwest of the Crimea, while Brody is the Army Aviation’s western location. At least two Mi-24s and a Mi-8 fly in white in support of the UN troops in the DR Congo. One Mi-24 has been deployed with the UN forces in Liberia as of 26 March 2014. On 2 May 2014 two Ukrainian Army Mi-24 were shot down by pro-Russian separatists near the town of Slovyansk. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence the choppers were hit by a shoulder-launched portable surface-to-air missile (MANPADS), marking the first time ever an Ukrainian military aircraft were lost by hostile fire in mid-air since the country gained independence after the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. On 5 May a third Hind was downed by heavy machine gun fire, also near Slovyansk with both crew making it out alive after the machine crashed / ditched in a river. Another two Mi-24s were lossed or damaged upon repair in 2014.
Until a decade ago, Ukraine also had dozens of Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire long range bombers available. These were scrapped however between 2002 and 2004 under the US-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction program (CTR).
When it comes to tactical and strategic aerial relocation, resupply and reinforcement the Ukrainian Air Force has at its disposal: five or six Ilyushin IL-76MDs operational and 13 in reserve, 1 Antonov AN-70, possibly still about 2 or 3 Antonov AN-2s, a single Antonov AN-24 with another 2 in reserve, three operational Antonov AN-26s and about 16 AN-26 in reserve. Of the AN-26s several are especially adapted for a medevac role. A sixth or seventh IL-76 was shot down by separatists on 13 June 2014, while landing at Luhansk Airport. A fourth AN-26 taken down by a apparently a relatively advanced SAM on 14 July 2014. Two Tupolev Tu-134s are technically available for VIP flights only, with uncertainty about the flying condition of one of them. The transport fleet is scattered across the country, with the IL-76s flying with the 25th Transport Aviation Brigade at Melitopol and with most AN-26s operating with the 19th Transport Aviation Brigade at Vinnytsia-Havryshivka. Kirovograd Airbase was reopened as an airlift location on 30 August 2014, home to forces relocated from Djankoj at the Crimea. Parts of the Ukrainian transport fleet operate out of Kyiv-Borispol (Kiev-Boryspil) International Airport as well, where they are being serviced by the 15th Transport Aviation Brigade.
The fixed-wing aircraft are supplemented by about 30 Mil Mi-8/Mi-8MT transport helicopters, of which at least one flies in white in support of the UN troops in the DR Congo. Part of the rotary wing is based at Kherson, 130 km (80 miles) northwest of the Crimea, while Brody is the Army Aviation’s western location. On 25 April one of the Mi-8s deployed to Kramatorsk Airbase in the east of the country exploded on the ground with several wounded as a result. According to a spokesperson of the Ukrainian Armed Forces the fuel tank had been hit by a large caliber sniper bullet. Several eye-witnesses say to have heard multiple shots before the Hip blew up in flames. A second Hip was shot down by what officially has been said to be a MANPADS on 29 May 2014 near the town of Slovyansk, killing a dozen servicemen including the Ukrainian Army General responsible for the Army Guard combat training department. A third Mi-8 was brought down on 24 June, and a fourth on 7 August 2014. The details of the loss of a fifth Hip in 2014 are unknown.
On 24 April the Ukrainian Army commissioned the first newly domestically upgraded version of the Hip: the Mi-8MSB-V.
Although not primarily designed for combat, Ukrainian Air Force training aircraft could serve in the secondary liaison role, especially the 20 operational Yakovlev Yak-52M radial engine propeller aircraft based at Kherson in the south of the country. About 40 to 60 Yak’s are held in reserve. The 14 upgraded Aero L-39 Albatros advanced trainers could in theory be equipped for light attack duties. The Albatros’s are based in Chuhuiv in the east, facing a possible Russian invasion first, and at Kulbakino in the south, but at least three possible upgraded L-39s were captures by Russian forces on Belbek at the Crimea at 1 March 2014 and have so for not been returned. The total available Albatros fleet could number around 24 to 30, with the Air Force having 38 of the type on record in January 2014. For basic flight training the Ukrainian Air Force Academy at Kharkiv (Kharkov) uses the domestically developed KhAZ-30 single-engine light propeller aircraft.
The aviation part of the Ukrainian Navy (Військово-Морські Сили or Viysʹkovo-Morsʹki Syly) already lost a lot in the early stages of conflict, namely the cluster of locations that is the Southern Fleet Base on the Crimean peninsula. The Ukrainian Naval aviation has 3 Beriev Be-12 maritime patrol aircraft, 2 Antonov AN-26 transport aircraft and 8 anti-submarine helicopters of the types Kamov Ka-27 and Mil Mi-14 Haze. Many of the assets in reserve (most of them not airworthy) were based at Saky at the Crimea, which means that up to 16 Kamov Ka-29 Helix-B assault transport helicopters, another 8 to 10 Ka-27s, up to 4 Antonov AN-26 transport aircraft, 6 to 8 Mil Mi-8 Hip transport helicopters and 4 or 5 Mil Mi-14 Haze anti-submarine helicopters could have been captured, but we have insufficient data at the moment to narrow down these numbers.
Saky Naval Air Station
According to Ukrainian sources on the ground and later confirmed by video footage one Ka-27, three Mi-14s, two AN-26s and one Beriev Be-12 were able to flee Saky Airbase for the Ukrainian mainland and possibly landed on the airfield of Western Navy Fleet Base city of Odesa. A second Be-12 and three KA-27s were returned in April 2014 by Russia, with only the Beriev in flyable condition.
Footage showing Ukrainian Naval Air Assets making a safe escape from Saky (wrong caption with video though)
Frigate Hetman Sahaidachny
At least one Ka-27 was on board the naval frigate U130 Hetman Sahaidachny that payed a port visit to Souda in Greece on 28 February on the return trip from the anti-piracy mission Atalanta off the coast of Somalia. The ship docked at the Ukrainian naval base in Odesa on 6 March, bringing the flagship of the navy home. The Ministry of Defence in Kiev has confirmed rear admiral Berezovsky, commander of the Ukrainian Southern Fleet at Sevastopol and the whole Ukrainian Navy, has been relieved of his duties and that he is now sought for defecting to the pro-Russian self-declared autonomous government of the Crimea.
Border Guard Aviation
The Border Guard Aviation flies two Diamond DA42 M-NG TwinStar unarmed light patrol aircraft. In 2013 the pair accumulated 434 flight hours, of which 233 were spent on actual border surveillance and 123 on patrolling the naval economic zone and Ukrainian territorial waters. Moreover the service has 5 Mil Mi-8s medium-lift helicopters, an AN-24 transport aircraft and an AN-26 transport aircraft.
LATEST UPDATE 25 MARCH 2014 | The February military conflict at the Crimean peninsula (Krim) has not only re-ignited old pains between powerful Russia and political unstable Ukraine, in might lead to a full-scale war. Reports about activities in the air and on land and sea are sketchy and sometimes incomprehensible. We at AIRheads↑Fly have tried to make some sense of the situation as far as the air part goes set against the geopolitical-military background.
Although the air side of Ukrainian MiG-29 Belbek Airbase was taken in the early stages of the conflict, Russian soldiers entered the adjacent administrative and housing area on 22 March 2014 using smoke grenades, an armoured personnel carrier and a truck, and fired shots with their automatic rifles to force the Ukrainian troops to surrender.
On Monday 3 March 2014 Russian forces completed their siege of very much all Ukrainian military installations at the Crimea that have not been taken yet. They include the Ukrainian bases in Novoozerne and Ljubimovka near Simferopol. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence the Ukranian Navy corvette U209 Ternopil and the command ship U510 Slavutych were still at the docks of their part of the naval base of Sevastopol, received a Russian ultimatum to abandon ship or they would be stormed by Russian forces. The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – also in Sevastopol – denied this, but journalists like Kyiv Post’s Christopher Miller confirmed they clearly heard the Russian minehunter/patrol ship Turbinist (912) deliver the message through its speaker systems. Sources in Kiev say they received a Russian overall ultimatum as well: give up all military installations at the Crimea before 05:00 (03:00 UTC) or they will be stormed. Later in the third week of March the Ukrainian naval vessels, including the only Ukrainian navy submarine were captured by Russian forces. Earlier reports that the Ukrainian navy was able to fled to sea proved wrong, with another fouyr light frigates, a patrol vessel and the only submarine being captured by Russians.
Source: Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Annual Defence Review Air Forces Command
Combat aircraft: probably 120 (before the Russian take-over of the Crimea 160 officially operational)
Transport aircraft: 25 or less See Overview: the Air Forces of Ukraine.
Naval Forces Command (as of 24 March 2014)
Troops: probably about 6,000 – 8000 of an official of 14,600
Vessels: 6-14, incl. 1 frigate (U130) and at least 2 corvettes.
Maritime patrol aircraft: 1-3 (before the Russian take-over officially 3 airworthy)
Anti-submarine helicopters: 5-8 (before the Rusian take-over officially 8 airworthy)
Main battle tanks (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 41
Armoured personnel carriers (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 160
Artillery guns (marines): unclear, before the Russian take-over 47
Air Mobile Forces Command
Armoured personnel carriers: 310
Early on Sunday morning 2 March 2014 the Ukrainian government decided to call up military reservists, followed by a larger scale mobilisation, in preparation of a possible full-scale conflict with neighbouring Russia. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence the active armed forces have about 159,000 men and women, civilians included. Estimates of the number of reserves during a full-scale mobilisation run up to a million.
Since 27 February 2014 Russia is strengthening its military installations in and around its giant Black Sea Naval Base on the southwestern tip of the Crimea. Russian ground troops from the navy, army and its allied Ukrainian and ethnic-Russian paramilitary forces have been taking hold of strategic locations in the Crimean capital of Simferopol and further into the peninsula, which is officially Ukrainian territory according to internationally law.
After the Russian parliament has given Russian president Vladimir Putin a more or less blank check to do whatever Mr. Putin seems necessary, the Ukrainian interim government put its forces on full alert as of 18:00 local time in Ukraine (16:00 UTC). Ilyushin IL-76s and Mi-8s have been flying into Sevastopol, Hvardiyske (Gvardeyskoye) and Simferopol, rotary wing assets reportedly flew into the Saky Naval Air Station that the Russian Black Sea Fleet already ran before the conflict.
About 6,000 additional Russian troops have been flown in to the Crimea up to noon on 1 March 2014, according to the Russian defence ministry. They mostly used Mi-8s and IL-76s. According to Moscow they are there to protect the Russian fleet assets and to assist self-proclaimed independent government of the Crimea. In a press release spread via Russian Interfax press agency on 1 March the pro-Russian prime minister states that: “Russian Black Fleet navy personnel now guards important buildings at the Crimea”. The Ukrainian government says Russia deployed 15,000 additional troops, and the latest estimates spoke even of 23,000 troops. Parts of the 3,500 Ukrainian ground troops at the Crimea peninsula are surrounded by Russian forces. So far the Ukrainians haven’t put up much resistance, likely trying to avoid bloodshed at gunpoint.
Russian forces might get support from parts of the apparently 5,000 men of Ukrainians Berkut paramilitary/para-police militia that are said to have received Russian passports after the Ukrainian government decommissioned the entire unit because of its role in the riots in the capital of Kiev.
Around 16:00 local Moscow time (14:00 UTC) on 1 March 2014 the chairman of the Russian senate (Federal Council) confirms that Russia will probably send a limited military force to Ukraine because of “security reasons”. The always outspoken Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt calls the situation on the Crimean peninsula “a Russian take-over. There is no doubt about that.”
Russian president Putin subsequently asked the Russian parliament to okay more forces to be send to the Ukraine “to stabilize the situation until the Ukranians find political stability”. After a relatively short discussion the Duma agreed to Mr. Putins request to do whatever is needed to protect the interest of Russia and Russian citizens anywhere in Ukraine. The people’s representative leaves it solely up to the Russian president to decide how many troops will be send and where in Ukraine they might show up.
Large scale action
In theory this could mean a possible invasion of the eastern parts of the country, like in and around the partly pro-Russian city of Kharkiv. But later on Friday Russian sources downplayed such a large scale action, at least for the time being. “The fact that that the President has the green light, doesn’t mean more will happen soon”, according to a Russian government spokesperson. In fact, after the US, the EU, the UN, Sweden and Germany tried to mediate tensions for the eastern part of Ukraine lowered somewhat.
Belbek MiG-29 base
On 28 February 2014 Russian forces seized control of the Ukrainian military airbase and the MiG fighter jets of Belbek, Ukrainian military sources told international press agencies, with reportedly as many as 40 MiG-29s and 2 L-39s captured. As fleeing former Ukrainian president Yanukovych reportedly sought refuge with the Russian fleet, Ukraine’s military chief of staff admiral Yuri Ilyin ordered one or more MiG-29 fighter planes in the direction of the Russian naval base on 25 February 2014.
Officially the Ukrainian Air Force had about a hundred ex-Soviet Fulcrums, with at least seven modernized to MiG-29UM1 standard and likely airworthy. Reports about the origin of the Fulcrum flights near Russian installations are inconclusive. There are up to more than 30 MiG-29s operating with the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade at Belbek just north of Sevastopol. According to some Russian sources they closed down parts of the airspace over the peninsula in the early stages of the stand-off.
The military air base of Kirovs’kyi (Kirovskoye), on the eastern part of the Crimean peninsula, was initially reported to have been put under Russian control on 28 February as well. But on 1 March 2014 a Ukrainian general showed AP photographer Darko Vojinovic the destroyed air control tower equipment. “Russian troops broke into the air control tower and smashed much of the equipment on Friday”, according to the general.At least until 2008 the Ukrainian Air Force regularly flew from Kirovskoye, including with MiG-29s. The current Google Maps aerial imagery still shows the base in a fairly active state.
Troops have also been reported landing on the airfield of Simferopol, where on 27 February 2014 Russian forces from Marines Brigade 810 already showed up “to guarantee security” according to a spokesperson of the group to a television crew. The identity of the group was confirmed on 1 March 2014 to The Telegraph correspondent Roland Oliphant.
Other seized locations
Amongst other strategic locations Russian forces seized on 1 March 2014 are Ukrainian border patrol locations ins Sevastopol and the Ukrainian armed forces SAM site in Jevparoija. Early on Sunday 2 March Russian forces reportedly disarmed Ukrainian military personnel at a radar station in Sudak.
Beriev Be-12 / Kamov Ka-27 / Navy
The Ukranian Navy in Sevastopol and Yevpatoria has partly fled to sea, according to international press agencies who estimate the number of ships that left port on about 10. But this is denied by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. The whereabouts of the 3 operational Beriev maritime patrol aircraft and 7 of the 8 operational Kamov Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters are unknown. Amongst the reserves and support aircraft are AN-26s. The Ukrainian Southern Fleet assets might move closer to the Western Naval Base of Odesa to protect it against possible Russian movements.
In fact an Ukrainian source on the ground on 7 March said one KA-27, three Mi-14s, two AN-26s and one Beriev Be-12 were able to flee Saky Airbase for the Ukrainian mainland and possibly landed on the airfield of Western Navy Fleet Base city of Odesa. The Ukrainian Naval Frigate U130 Hetman Sahaydachny arrived in the port of Souda, Crete, Greece on 28 February 2014 for a friendly visit. The vessel has been part of the anti-piracy operation Atalanta near the coast of Somalia. The Ka-27 helicopter on board made 50 sorties, according to an Ukrainian press release. According to the admiralty the vessel and its helicopter are still there on 2 March. Russian reports that the frigate supposedly were denied by the Ukrainian admiralty and the vessel docked in Odesa on 6 March 2014, bringing the flagship of the Ukrainian navy home.
The Ministry of Defence in Kiev confirmed rear admiral Berezovsky, commander of the Ukrainian Southern Fleet at Sevastopol and the whole Ukrainian Navy, has been relieved of his duties and that he is now sought for defecting to the pro-Russian self-declared autonomous government of the Crimea. The Ukrainian Sea Guard (Морська охорона or Mors’ka OkhoronaKertj) supposedly left their bases of Kertj for Mariupol and Sevastopol for Odesa, but there are no air assets involved here.
Mi-8s / Mi-28 / Sevastopol
Up to six Mil Mi-8s (NATO-name Hip) have been flying in reinforcements to the naval facilities in Sevastopol. They supposedly have been escorted by up to a dozen Mi-28s (NATO-name Havoc), possibly Mi-28N Night Hunters. Unconfirmed but apparently caught on film in the afternoon of 28 February 2014 are a dozen Mi-8s and attack helicopters allegedly flying towards the Russian naval base at the Crimea. The number of troops airlifted into the Russian naval base was on 28 February 2014 about 2,000 men and women, quickly rising to 6,000 by noon on 1 March 2014 and later to 15,000.
Mi-24s / Kacha
A dozen Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters have been seen flying towards Kacha Airbase.
At least twice four Russian Air Force or chartered Aeroflot Ilyushin IL-76s are said to have been flying in troops from Moscow-Kubinka to Anapa just east of the Crimea in the Krasnodar region.
Officially the Russian military conducted a large-scale military exercise, started 26 February and lasting to 3 March 2014. According to official statements it involves 150,000 troops, 90 aircraft, over 120 helicopters, 880 tanks, 1,200 armoured and unarmoured vehicles and artillery and up to 80 ships. The Russian forces in the Western Military District (opposing NATO), Central District and the forces in the Baltics started emergency readiness drills that included refueling of aircraft.
Air Force of Ukraine
With the Crimean military-strategic-political situation in full throttle the Ukrainian Air Force (see overview)
is caught in the middle of a huge 6 year reorganisation that was started in 2009. The peacetime
strength of the air force is projected to be 20,000 to 23,000 personnel, including 18,000 to 20,000
in uniform. Obsolete weapons are to be scrapped or used for spare parts, including some of the
reserved MiG-29s, and the aim is to get newer Western fighter aircraft in the future. Proposed
levels speak of 120 combat aircraft supported by 50 to 60 transport and special mission aircraft.
Included in the transport projects is nationally produced Antonov AN-70s.