Providing Ukraine with Air Defence Capabilities

By Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Our latest reports finds that the British Government should develop creative plans to deliver air defences to Ukraine as it looks to provide the country with more lethal military aid as the war changes phase. 


Proposals to provide the Ukrainian air force with fighter aircraft have stalled following Russian threats.  Western strategists have adopted a view that the Kremlin would consider flying NATO jets into Ukraine to be a move of aggression.  With the Russian government making nuclear threats, fear of its response has, hence far, been overwhelming.  


In recent days, the conflict has progressed into a new phase. According to reports, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is developing plans to provide Ukraine with over-the-horizon weaponry which would allow Ukraine to take the fight to Russian forces.    


The paper lays out four options for providing Ukraine with the much-needed equipment necessary to fight such a war.   


The first is to simply call Putin’s bluff, recognising that “a one-time transfer of planes may not necessarily result in a decision to escalate.”  Options for their delivery include one Ukrainian runway located just 50 metres from the Slovakian border.   


The second option would be to fly donated fighter jets to a strip of road within Slovak territory adjoining Ukraine.  That land could then – by treaty – be temporarily ceded to Ukraine. Fighter jets would then not be flying from NATO territory into Ukraine.  Rather Ukrainian territory would be expanded by as little as 2km to cover the donated jets.  Ukrainian forces could then utilise the jets as required.  


Lastly, the paper proposes simply driving deliveries of fighter jets into Ukraine.  Ukraine previously conducted such an operation when it withdrew MiG-29 jets from Crimea in 2014.  Such an operation would require rolling air defence cover, night-time operations and would need to be conducted under the upmost secrecy. 


Irrespective of the ability to provide fighter jets, the paper recommends the urgent distribution of air defence systems and missiles to Ukraine.  As part of this endeavour, it recommends three-way-swaps whereby third countries could be provided with modern Sky Sabre or Patriot air defence systems in exchange for donating Soviet-era platforms to Ukraine’s military. 


Sam Ashworth-Hayes, the author of the paper, commented: 


“As the Prime Minister has made clear, Ukraine’s heroic resistance has seen the war change phase to a more traditional form of conflict.  The changing nature of the conflict means that our support ought to change with it.   


Such is Ukraine’s need that no option ought to be beyond our consideration.  Putin has proved that he is no match for Ukraine’s lateral thinking, creativity, and courage and our response should mirror their approach.”   




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