Throughout the years of independence, Ukraine's Air Force has received not a single new aircraft, says Commander, Colonel General Serhiy Drozdov.
The obsolete Soviet-era warplanes can't keep being repaired forever, the Commander has told RBC-Ukraine, adding that in 10 years, Ukrainian pilots may be left without aircraft suitable for performing the tasks assigned.
According to him, now the air borders of the state are protected by equipment manufactured in the period from 1968 to 1991. The aircraft fleet has long needed an upgrade.
"Our oldest military transport aircraft are 52 years old. Attack, fighter and reconnaissance fleet of Su-25s, Su-24Ms, MiG-29s, Su-27s, and Su-24MRs date back to 1981-1991. Throughout the years of Ukraine's independence, we've received not a single military aircraft," the commander said in the context of the recent deadly crash of an An-26 transport plane carrying air force cadets.
Ukrainian aviation is being kept in shape exclusively through repair and modernization, the Air Force commander points out.
"At the same time, I'd like to note that repair and modernization of Soviet equipment can't be carried out forever. There is physical destruction of engines, units, assemblies, and frame. Sooner or later, probably in 10 years, we will face the problem where our planes won't be able to perform tasks assigned," Drozdov concluded.
An-26 crash: Background
- On September 26, an An-26 military plane crashed by the highway while approaching the Chuhuiv military airfield.
- Kharkiv-based Air Force University's crew and cadets were on board – a total of 27 people.
- Twenty-five were killed at the crash site and one of the two survivors later died in hospital. The only survivor is still undergoing treatment with no threat to his life reported.
- According to the SBU Security Service, the plane's captain reported left engine failure to the tower and requested an approach to land shortly before the crash.
- Ukraine's Defense Minister Andriy Taran, citing aviation experts, said one of the sensors in the engine of the An-26 transport military aircraft failed, as a result of which the plane's wing caught on the ground as it was approaching the airfield near Chuhuiv before plunging and setting ablaze.
- The An-26 that crashed on September 25 was manufactured in 1977. It had been operated as a training aircraft for the Air Force.