“You need air superiority”: Is success even possible without fighter jets in the counter-offensive?

Has Western countries’ reluctance to supply F-16 fighter jets denied Ukraine a substantial success in its counter-offensive?

Expert opinions differ here. The fact is: the new brigades trained in the west were primarily trained in western warfare. Coordinated attacks by artillery, infantry, tanks and normally also the air force – so-called “Combined Arms” maneuvers – formed the core.

However, breakthroughs are very difficult to achieve without air support. This became particularly clear at the beginning of the counter-offensive, when the advancing infantrymen were completely at the mercy of Russian helicopter fire.

A problem that, according to Colonel Markus Reisner of the Austrian Armed Forces, could have been solved by the timely delivery of fighter jets. More fighter jets could have better protected the ground forces from such attacks, he says in an interview with the New York Times.

“That’s actually what they’re designed for,” says Reisner. “Military logic is that in order to conduct successful land operations, you need air superiority.”

He added: “Some American generals are saying, ‘This is not what the Ukrainians need right now.’ I think that is a political statement, not a militarily logical statement.”

Others, like military expert Michael Kofman, doubt the extraordinary importance of fighter jets in the current counter-offensive.

“It would be wrong to think that there was any silver bullet that Ukraine used to overrun Russian defenses. It’s an illusion,” he said in an interview with the AIO Information. (tsp)

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