Well, I just assumed with 500+ Russian jets and only 100 Ukrainian, it was going to be Russian air superiority. It mostly has, but not entirely. Russia has also lost some air assets while it appears that Ukraine has maintained some of theirs.
Now, our count before the war gave Russia some 1,377 modern combat airplanes with 910 of them multirole or fighters (not counting Navy), vice Ukraine’s 98 modern combat airplanes with 69 of them multirole or fighters. Reports were saying the Russia had deployed 500 of them against Ukraine. See: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/blog/2022/02/18/the-russo-ukrainian-war-of-2022-part-5-airpower/
So, no contest… except…
- It appears from video evidence that several of the Ukrainian Mig-29s survived the first couple of days and were still operating. So, the Russia initial strike did not completely take out the Ukrainian Air Force. We have no idea how many (if any) were taken out and how many (if any) aircraft are still operational.
- The Ukrainians have been able to make use of their Turkish manufactured Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs. I have seen videos of two successful strikes by them. According to Wikipedia they had 6 or 12 of them and the Ukrainian Navy had an additional 1 to 5. Not sure if they have any others or if any of these survived. Looking at the satellite pictures of the densely packed convoys north of Kiev, I am guessing that they did not. They may have only had around seven at the start of the war, and I would not be surprised if all of them had been used or destroyed. Not sure if or when they are getting any more. They were setting up a contract to build 48 in Ukraine.
- Updated 2 March 2022: Apparently another 6 to 12 Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs have been shipped to Ukraine from either Turkey or Azerbaijan.
- The Ukrainians are getting another 70 planes and Ukranian pilots are already picking up MiG-29s in Poland. According to twitter (trust at your own risk) the list of planes includes 16 MiG-29s from Bulgaria, 14 SU-25s from Bulgaria, 28 MiG-29s from Poland and 12 MiG-29s from Slovakia. Have no idea how accurate this report is. But potentially this means that Ukraine will be able to maintain some air presence over the battlefield. Also see: Ukrainian pilots arrive in Poland
- Updated 01 March 2022: EU’s Ukraine Fighter Jet Promise Falling Apart as Russia Advances
- Updated 02 March 2022: It looks like that at least the Polish MiG-29s have been taken over by the Ukrainian air force.
- Updated 03 March 2022: The Ukrainian pilots are in Poland, but apparently so are the Polish MiG-29s. See: Is Poland Sending Fighter Jets to Ukraine?
- It appears that as of right now (3 March) the Ukrainians do not have any additional aircraft and are not clearly slated to get them.
- Update 5 March 2022: It appears that Ukraine has most of its original aircraft, even though it has yet to receive any additional from NATO: US: Ukraine has ‘significant majority’ of its military aircraft.
- And then there are the Stingers (FIM-92). These are great air denial weapons and we have seen a couple of Russian planes and helicopters brought down by them. Don’t know how many they had before the start of the war. They were supplied some by Latvia and Lithuania before the war. They also have the Piorun MANPAD provided by Poland and the various Soviet built Igla-1, Igla-2, Strela-2 and Strela-3. Germany has just announced it providing them with 500 Stingers, although I assume it will be a few weeks before they get into action. U.S. is apparently now also sending them Stingers.
- Updated 03 March 2022: It is claimed that 200 Stingers from the U.S. arrived in Ukraine on 1 March.
- They also have considerable other anti-aircraft weapons: 1) S-300V1 (SA-12 Gladiator) – 4 batteries, 2) TOR (SA-15 Guantlet) – 6, 3) 9K37-BUK (SA-17 Grizzly) – 72, 4) 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Grecko) – 125, 5) 9K35 Strela 10 (SA-14 Gopher) – 150+, 6) 9K31 Strela-1 (SA-9 Gaskin) – not counted, 7) 2k22 Tunguska (SA-19 Grison) – only 10 counted, 8) ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” – up to 300, 9) AZP S-60 (not counted) and ZU-23-2 (not counted). This is a total of at least 687 antiaircraft systems, although I assume at this point, a number of them are already out of action.
So, it does appear that the air space will be contested at least some of the time at some locations. Over time, as hundreds of Stingers arrive, I am guessing that air space will become contested more frequently.
P.S. Spotted this article just after making this post: Ukraine and Russia are still fighting for control of the skies 5 days into the war, U.S. defense official says