Russia is amassing jets and helicopters close to the border with Ukraine amid a stuttering land offensive, Financial Times reported, citing Western officials who were briefed with NATO intelligence shared among allies.
This indicates that Moscow is preparing to throw its jets and helicopters into the war, in a shift of approach, and has prompted allies to prioritise rapid shipments of air defence assets and artillery ammunition to Kyiv, FT writes.
A senior US administration official was quoted as saying that US defense secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted the remaining threat of Russia’s air force and was clear that allies have a short window of time to help the Ukrainians to prepare for an offensive.
“The Russian land forces are pretty depleted so it’s the best indication that they will turn this into an air fight. If the Ukrainians are going to survive . . . they need to have as many air defence capabilities and as much ammunition . . . as possible,” the official added.
In a news conference later that day, Austin did not say he saw imminent signs of a massive aerial attack, but that Washington and allies are rushing as much air defense capability to Ukraine as they can.
Intelligence assessment indicated that 80% of Russia’s air force is “safe and available,” a senior NATO diplomat said. “We are expecting that they’re preparing to launch an air campaign and they’ve been trying to [disable] Ukrainian air defences with attacks,” he added.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have pressed on the West to provide fighter jets. However, a US official cited by FT said that they are less important than ammunition in the long term.
“What we really have to concentrate on now is Ukraine’s ability to defend the air and they’ll do that through air defence artillery, equipped with the proper ammunition. Fighter jets are not and will not be as capable against the Russian air force as an integrated air defence system,” the US official said.
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Tags: air defense, fighter jets