Ukraines hero pilots fighting 2 against 10 but still thrashing the Russians

A Ukrainian fighter pilot waiting for the order to scramble and take on Russian bombers in his 1500mph Sukhoi Su-27 says that Russian pilots are now refusing to take on the defenders, despite having superior equipment.

The skies above Ukraine are “getting calmer", says the flyer, who gave his name as Andriy. ”In the beginning they were succeeding due to their quantity, but now the situation is getting better”.

But Ukrainian pilots are still hugely outnumbered and are fighting against an attacking force equipped with far more advanced planes including the “supermanoeuvrable” Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter which can fly at twice the speed of sound.

"Sometimes two of our pilots fight against 10 planes," Ukrainian Air Force, Lt. Col. Yuriy Ignat told CNN.

"They take off with a one-way ticket, they understand that perhaps they are going to die."

“Every time when I fly, it’s for a real fight," adds Andriy. There is no equality in aircraft numbers he says: "[The Russians] always have five times more."

Dave Deptula, a principal attack planner for the Desert Storm air campaign in Iraq, told the New York Times that the incredible performance of the Ukrainian pilots had made up for their disadvantages in numbers.

But unless President Zelenskyy can persuade NATO to follow through on the rumoured deal to send Polish planes to Ukraine, it’s only a matter of time before Ukraine’s is force is wiped out.

“Without resupply,” he said, “they will run out of airplanes before they run out of pilots.”

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But the defenders morale is undimmed: "All of us are ready to fight, just with our jets, with our guns, even just in the fields with rifles,” Andriy says.

“Our people, including me, we are ready to fight Russians, and we are ready to defend our country, to defend our people in absolutely any way”.

Ukraine’s air defences are also being massively boosted by anti-air missiles fired from the ground.

Both long-range radar-guided Buk missiles and highly portable shoulder-fired Stingers have been decimating the attackers’ aircraft since the beginning of the offensive, with even more advanced kit on the way.

Russia’s failure to take out Ukrainian air defences “is becoming a serious hindrance”, says Rob Lee of King’s College London.

It will probably be regarded as one of the “key mistakes” of this war, he told The Economist.

It’s partly because of the tight integration of fighter group and ground based anti-air capability that has prevented Russia from gaining the expected air superiority over Ukraine.

The skies are still contested, says Pentagon spokesman John Kirby: “It's contested because the Ukrainians are making it that way.

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"They’re being very smart about how they're marshalling and using their air defence resources."

The Ukrainians are operating under conditions of strict secrecy, using hidden airstrips or even motorways to launch their fighters.

And there’s another Ukrainian secret weapon, Ignat says: "Fighting spirit and heroism should not be discounted. The Russians don't have that."

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