How big is Ukraine’s air force and what weapons do they have to fight Russia?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been seen devastating missile attacks striking cities like Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, with its military adopting brutal siege warfare tactics similar to those it has deployed in the past in Chechnya and Syria.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile continues to lead from the streets of the capital, rallying the international community for support, as his people stage a street-level fightback against Russia’s armed forces.

At the country’s western border, an estimated 3 million people have fled for neighboring Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova, creating a major humanitarian crisis.

US president Joe Biden, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres have joined other global powers in condemning Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack and promised to hold it “accountable”.

Tough economic sanctions have been issued by the allies against Russian banks, businesses, politicians and oligarchs as western corporations withdraw the country, its sports stars are banned from international competitions and Mr Putin finds himself presiding over a pariah state on the world stage.

Nato continues to extend diplomatic support, aid and weapons to Ukraine but refuses to impose a no-fly zone over the country for fear of being drawn into a much larger war over Eastern Europe, leaving the country in a lonely fight to retain its independence.

Although Russia’s military is significantly larger than Ukraine’s in every area, President Zelensky’s forces still pose a threat and at the very least can mount a defense against Russia’s ongoing invasion as the world has been seen in recent days.

Here’s a look at the combatant’s comparative capabilities.

How big is Ukraine’s air force?

According to the Flight International 2022 World Air Forces database, Ukraine’s Air Force has 210 military aircraft including 98 combat aircraft.

These consist of Soviet-made MiG-29s and three types of Sukhoi jets.

However, Russia has a significantly larger military air force with active aircraft totaling 3,863, according to Flight International’s database, with almost 15 times more combat planes than Ukraine.

A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighter


Despite its smaller arsenal, Ukraine’s ministry of defense have reported that, as of 1 March, it has downed 29 Russian aircraft, 29 helicopters and seven air defense units.

How big is Russia’s army?

Since 2014-15, Ukraine has tripled its defense budget in an attempt to improve its military and also comply with standards demanded to join Nato as an entry requirement.

The increased investment has helped Ukraine’s army measure up to Russia, although it currently has just 125,600 soldiers compared to Russia’s 280,000.

In terms of total military personnel, Russia’s 900,000 active men and women trumps Ukraine’s 196,600.

A Russian cruiser conducting an artillery battle and destroying a mock enemy submarine in Black Sea near Sevastopol


Ukraine also has 900,000 reserve personnel – those who have received military training in the last five years – compared with Russia’s 2 million.

They have more than three times the amount of artillery, six times the number of tanks and almost seven times more armored vehicles than the Ukrainians.

The Russian navy operates 74 warships and 51 submarines, compared with Ukraine’s two warships.

Military analysts say Ukraine’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile defenses are weak, leaving it highly vulnerable to Russian strikes on its critical infrastructure.

They say Russia would also seek to use its superiority in electronic warfare to paralyze its adversary’s command and control and cut off communications with units in the field.

What weapons does Ukraine have?

Several western nations have come to the aid of Ukraine to bolster its military defenses.

The US has provided more than $2.5bn (£1.87bn) in military aid since 2014, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, coastal patrol boats, Humvees, sniper rifles, reconnaissance drones, radar systems, night vision and radio equipment.

Turkey has sold Kyiv several batches of Bayraktar TB2 drones while Britain supplied Ukraine with a reported 2,000 short-range anti-tank missiles in January and sent British Army specialists to deliver training.

Here’s a list of some of the weapons Ukraine has and what they do.

Javelin anti-tank guided missiles

What are they for: The anti-tank missiles use infrared systems to lock their targets meaning troops don’t need to aim.

Javelin anti-tank guided missiles

(Creative Commons)

The missile is capable of flying up to 490ft into the air before connecting with a target.

Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon

What are they for: This weapon is another anti-tank missile, of which the UK has donated 2,000 units to Ukraine.

Servicemen of Ukrainian Military Forces on the front-line with Russia-backed separatists near Novognativka village, Donetsk region, examine a Swedish-British portable anti-tank guided missile


It’s capable of flying at speeds of 440 miles per hour using an inertial navigation system to fly to a target vehicle.

stinger missiles

What are they for: Latvia and Lithuania have donated stinger missiles which is a Man-Portable-Air-Defense System (MANPADS) that uses infrared homing technology to search and flying strike targets.

Lithuania’s military aid including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, delivered as part of the security support package for Ukraine,


It’s been used by Ukrainian forces to bring down Russian aircraft.

Bayraktar TB2 drones

What are they for: The drones supplied by Turkey and is capable of 24-hour flights at an altitude of 24,000 feet (7,300 meters) and carrying a payload of 330 lbs (150kg).

(Creative Commons)

It is capable of carrying out aerial strikes against tanks and bunkers, with a maximum altitude of five miles to avoid enemy machine guns.

The drone can also navigate even if it loses GPS signal, however, it’s unclear whether they’ve been used in Ukraine yet.

Is Ukraine running out of weapons?

While up-to-date information from the frontline can be hard to substantiate, reports suggest Ukraine may be running out of the weapons.

President Zelensky has called for more supplies from Western nations to help it sustain its resistance against Russia’s advance.

Western officials have been quoted as saying that Kyiv’s troops are “expending a lot of ordnance” and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, is understood to have warned privately last week the country had “two weeks” until it ran out of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles – a situation which has not yet been resolved by military shipments from Europe and the US.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *