Armed Forces Overviews
Ukraine

Please note that recent events in Ukraine may mean that the orders of battle are not fully accurate after the Russian annexation of The Crimea and the insurgency in South Eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine Armed Forces

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By Patrick Roegies

Ukraine Air Force (VVS Ukraine)
Военно-воздушные силы Украины (BBCУ)

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Brief history
With the formation of the independent state of Ukraine on 24 August 1991 the Ukrainian Air Force ( Viys’ kovo-povitryany sily oftewel 'VPS') was formed. The gained independence also meant the transfer of a number of air bases and a high number of aircraft integrated in the Soviet Air Forces which were based on Ukraine soil. The high number of aircraft estimated at approx. 1500 aircraft transferred to the Ukraine Air Force. This high number was a direct result of a high debt of the former Soviet state to Ukraine which was partly settled after the transfer of the aircraft. Amongst these aircraft were also aircraft recently withdrawn from East Germany which gained its independence in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The new inventory consisted of a high number of fighter aircraft consisting of MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27 and an estimated total of 216 MiG-29's of which were an estimated 155 izdeliye 9-13, Su-15'Su-17, Su-24, Su-25 and Su-27 aircraft. Besides these fighter aircraft the Ukraine Air Forces also received a modest number of L-39 trainer aircraft, transport aircraft and even Tu-22 long range bomber aircraft.


Photo: Marco Dijkshoorn

Photo: Patrick Roegies

In a relative short period the Ukrainian Air Force was formed and inherited all the responsibilities earlier appointed to the soviet Air Force. Given the enormous amount of the acquired inventory initially the exact same structure as used by the Soviet Air Force was adopted by the Ukrainian Air Force divided into an Air Force (VPS) and an Air Defence component (VPPO). Only shortly after the inheritance the first problems almost immediately presented itself. By the lack of both trained pilots and maintenance personnel and available funding required to operating such a large inventory, the Air Force was forced to withdraw a substantial amount of the aircraft from use. Initially these were the older aircraft within the Air Force like the Su-15, Su-17 MiG-23, MiG-27 and MiG-25. These aircraft were transferred to storage facilities and put in long term storage until eventually they were scrapped. The aircraft that remained in active service were barely used which resulted in a low level of competence of the Ukrainian Air Force pilots. Also the level of maintenance was relatively low.

With the continuous problems of the insufficient funding required for operating the Air Force an extensive reorganization took place in 2003 in which a number of regiments and squadrons were disbanded and air bases were closed. This reorganization also meant the end of the operational lifetime of the Tu-22 in the Ukrainian Air Force with the main base Tu-22 Poltava closed. Since the Air force had no need for a long range and medium range bomber force it also meant a drastic reduction of the Su-24 fleet. Additionally an number of MiG-29 Regiments were disbanded with all the aircraft being moved to aircraft storage facilities. Also the last surviving Su-17's MiG-23's and MiG--27's did not survive this reorganization and all the remaining aircraft were transferred to long term storage facilities.

In the following years additional contractions were initiated which meant a further reduction of aircraft within the Air Force. As a direct result the Air Force (VPS) and Air Defence Force (VPPO) were integrated in the Armed Forces of the Ukraine - Povitryani Syly Ukrayiny - ( PS) on 1 December 2004. The integration of both branches was accompanied with further reorganizations and limitations in the air order of battle which were implemented until the end of 2005. Besides a further withdrawal of aircraft also extensive modernization programs for the remaining active fleet of de Su-24, Su-25, Su-27, MiG-29, L-39, Mi-8 en Mi-24 commenced mainly by one of the 10 state owned aircraft repair facilities situated on Ukrainian soil and merged into the Aviarenmont concern where the entire modernization programs could be executed.

The reforms started to show its effect on the operational employment of the number of available aircraft and the number of flying hours annually flown by Ukrainian Air Force pilots which increased to an average of approximately 40 per year which was still a factor 4 less than the standard set for NATO pilots. The mid term target was set to increase the number of flying hours in order to have the Ukrainian Air Force pilots at NATO standard.

In 2009 however a new set of measures were announced which would further decrease the operational deployment of the Air Force. By begin 2010 the deputy commander of the Air Force announced a further reduction of aircraft which would all be put in long term storage. Additionally was stated that the modernization programs would be delayed due to lack of funds and this would also affect the already running modernization programs. Despite these announced reductions the main goal of the Air Force remained the training of their pilots according and up to NATO standards by 2012.

The Air Force is commanded by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces including a general staff with both Headquarters situated in Kiev. The main tasks appointed to the Air Force fighter squadrons are providing combat and reconnaissance support to ground forces. Additionally the tasks of air defence and maintaining air superiority within the national airspace during conflicts are specified. The transport squadrons are appointed the tasks of supplying tactical and strategic transport during conflicts. With most of the modernization programs still running the Ukrainian Air Force is taking small steps in order to meet the goals as set by the Supreme Commander.

Ukraine Marine Aviation Brigade
Морская авиационная бригада

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Brief history
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union Saky has become the home of Ukrainian Naval Aviation. During the Soviet era the base was used as the Soviet aircraft carrier’s land based aviation test and training site referred to as the Nazyemniy Ispitateiniy Treynirovochniy Kompleks Aviatsii (NITKA), fully equipped with arresting gear and a ski jump ramp, a full size copy of their main carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov. The airbase is equipped with two parallel south west to north east runways with the main hangars located west of the runways. Initial construction commenced in 1974 and the first take off from the ski jump took place in 1982 performed by a MiG-29K. The first Su-27K's were noted at Saki from 1984 forward.

Photo: Marco Dijkshoorn

Photo: Marco Dijkshoorn

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Saki - Novofodorovka was in use by the Soviet Black Fleet Naval Air Forces operating the Yak-38, MiG-29K and the Su-25UTG. Also at this time Nikolaev - Kubalkino was in use as the Naval Aviation Combat Training Center equipped with Tu-22's and Be-12's, this being the navy‘s equivalent of the Air Force training center at Lipetsk. Also present was a combat helicopter training unit equipped with the Mi-14, Ka-25, Ka-27 and Ka-29. With the break-up of the Soviet Union most of these aircraft were scrapped, although some were passed on to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

With the independence of Ukraine, the Black Sea fleet was divided and since the Crimea was now a part of the Ukraine most of the former Soviet air bases passed in to Ukrainian ownership including Saki - Novofodorovka. Also transferred were three strategic units equipped with the Tu-22M and Tu-16K and one with the Tu-22R. Also a number of assorted units were passed on to Ukraine equipped with the Be-12, Su-25 and MiG-29.

The Ka-25's were withdrawn from use in 1994 and the number of operational Mi-14's was drastically reduced. Besides being withdrawn from use some aircraft were transferred from the Navy to the Air Force. This was the case with the MiG-29's and Su-25's with initial transfers taking place in the mid 1990's and completed by 2000.

From 2000 onward the Navy operated 3 airfields. The first was Ochakov, home to the helicopters of the Ukrainian Naval Aviation which were all appointed to the 555 anti submarine warfare regiment. The second air base was Nykolaev - Kubalkino which sheltered the Be-12's which were appointed to an independent regiment. The transport regiment of the Ukrainian Naval Aviation was already located at the third air base Saki – Novofederovka.

During 2004 all the regiments were merged at Saki - Novofederovka and since then it has become the home of Ukrainian Naval Aviation, hosting the three Regiments which are all appointed to different tasks. The Be-12's were transferred from Nykolaev - Kubalkino in 2004 and are currently appointed to the anti submarine warfare unit. The 555 Anti submarine warfare Helicopter Regiment was transferred from Ochakiv in 2004 and was renamed Anti submarine aviation regiment equipped with Ka-27, Ka-29, Mi-8 and Mi-14 helicopters. The transport aviation regiment already present Saki equipped with the An-2 and An-26 aircraft merged with the other two regiments. The transport unit also used to be equipped with the An-12 but these aircraft have been decommissioned and are currently in long term storage at Saki. In support ofthe regiments equipped with aircraft, a communications and electronic support battalion alongside an airdrome logistics battalion were also transferred to Saki.

Under a directive from the Chief of Staff of the Naval Forces of Ukraine dated December 8, 2004,the Naval Aviation Brigade was formed at the base of the Naval Aviation Group near the village Saki - Novofedorovka, Crimea, and on26 October 2008 the independent units were merged becoming the Saki Naval Aviation Brigade.

In the advent of the 2014 annexation of The Crimea by Russia, the Ukrainian Naval Aviation brigade is still operating the Be-12 which were expected to be in service for a couple of years to come. Several of these aircraft have been refurbished at Yevpatoria and a total of seven Be-12s, in both the anti submarine warfare and search and rescue (SAR) configuration are still in service. Of the seven one was stored at Yevpatoria awaiting possible refurbishment which is now forestalled. The fate of the Ka-27PL anti submarine warfare helicopters remains uncertain too. At least two helicopters in the inventory have been refurbished and were active in 2013. At least three Ka-27s have already been scrapped and the fate of the remaining airframes is unknown. As of early 2014, there were still at least 3 Mi-14PL helicopters on charge of the Naval brigade which were all recently submitted to a life extension program. With the Crimea being absorbed into Russia by presidential decree on 18 march 2014 after a landslide referendum win on 16 March, the Naval assets are now deployed from Kulbakino.

Ukraine Army Aviation (AA)
Армійська авіація (AA)

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Brief history
During the independence of Ukraine in 1992 the Ukrainian Army Aviation existed of 7 Helicopter squadrons mainly consisting of Mi-2, Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-24 and Mi-26 helicopters all acquired from the Soviet Air Force inventory. Equal to the Air Force the Army Aviation were struck by drastic reductions in fundings and reorganizations in the early resulting in a high number of helicopters being withdrawn from use and put in long term storage. This mainly effected in the withdrawal from use from the Mi-2 and Mi-6 helicopters.

Photo: Patrick Roegies

The Ukrianian Army Aviation currently operates from  2 main Air Bases. The 7 Brigade is operating from Novi Kalinov. Officially formed as a transport squadron operating with the Li-2 the unit received its first Helicopters in 1955 initially operating the Mi-4 and later the Mi-6 and Mi-8. The Regiment was formed as 340th Separate Combat - Transport Helicopter Breslavlsk Regiment. From  21 August 1968 until June 1991 the Regiment was stationed in Czechoslovakia. After 1992 the Regiment was redesignated to be 7th Separate Breslavlsk Army Aviation Regiment. This unit was also involved in the required transport actions at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Later the unit received the Mi-26 and Mi-24 helicopters. Later this unit contributed the UN mission in Zegreb as part of Ukraine's peacekeeping mission and supplied Mi-26 and Mi-24 helicopters all painted in a whhite c/s and wearing UN markings.

The 7th Brigade is currently still active operating the Mi-8 and Mi-24 in two squadrons with the Mi-26's mainly being transferred to long term storage facilities.

The Ka-25's were withdrawn from use in 1994 and the number of operational Mi-14's was drastically reduced. Besides being withdrawn from use some aircraft were transferred from the Navy to the Air Force. This was the case with the MiG-29's and Su-25's with initial transfers taking place in the mid 1990's and completed by 2000.

The second Army Aviation base is Brody where the 3rd brigade is based and was formed on 16 November 1995 as the 119 separate Helicopter Regiment subordinated to the 13th Army and was renamed to the 38th Army Corps. On 26 August 2004 the regiment was reformed into the 3rd Seperate Helicopter Brigade in August 2004. The Brigade was transferred to the 8th Army Corps in 2005. The main task of the Brigade is providing training to the aircrews and performing rescue operations. The Brigade also operates several subtypes of the Mi-8 and the Mi-24.

Currently the Army Aviation is modernizing its Mi-8 and Mi-24 fleet at the Aviakon factory at Konotop. Although the exact numbers and duration of the modernization program is unknown the first modified helicopters have been noted and have been integrated in the operational Brigades. Obviously, the army assets are being used and forward deployed to combat the uprising in Eastern Ukraine, suffering some operational losses as well.