As Russia continues its military build-up along the Ukrainian border, the risk of a full-scale invasion looms larger than ever. While much of the focus has been on ground troops and armor, the conflict in Ukraine could also be fought in the air, with Ukrainian planes facing off against Russian jets and drones.

In recent years, Ukraine has made significant strides in modernizing its air force, with the help of Western partners. The country now has a fleet of modern fighter jets, including the JAS-39 Gripen and the F-16 Falcon, which are capable of engaging Russian aircraft in aerial combat.

However, Ukraine’s air defenses still lag behind those of Russia, which has invested heavily in advanced anti-aircraft systems such as the S-400 and the Pantsir-S. Without adequate protection, Ukrainian planes could be vulnerable to Russian air strikes, which would severely limit Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.

To prevent this from happening, the West must provide Ukraine with the necessary support to strengthen its air defenses. This could include the provision of advanced radar systems, missile defense systems, and other technologies that would make it harder for Russian planes and drones to penetrate Ukrainian airspace.

But providing hardware alone is not enough. The West must also work with Ukraine to develop a comprehensive strategy for air defense, which takes into account the specific threats posed by Russia’s air capabilities. This strategy should involve close cooperation between Ukrainian and Western military experts, as well as joint training exercises and intelligence-sharing.

Moreover, the West must use statecraft to deter Russia from launching air strikes against Ukraine. This could involve a range of measures, including diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, and military posturing. It is also crucial that the West make it clear to Russia that any attack on Ukrainian planes will be met with a swift and decisive response.

In conclusion, the conflict in Ukraine is not just about ground troops and tanks – it could also be fought in the skies. To help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression, the West must provide the country with the necessary hardware, support the development of a comprehensive air defense strategy, and use statecraft to deter Russian air strikes. Failure to do so could have disastrous consequences for Ukraine and for the wider region.

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