Ukrainian Army and Special Ops Improved But Virtually No Navy and Air Force

In 2014, Ukraine’s defense minister said the country had 6,000 combat-ready troops. Today in 2022, Ukraine’s army numbers around 145,000-150,000 troops and has significantly improved its capabilities, personnel, and readiness. Over the last eight years of war with Russia, the army and special ops have improved but have limited heavy gear. The Navy and Air Force are even weaker than before the 2014 invasion.

The Ukrainian military can slow the Russian forces but would need to avoid getting crushed by Russian air superiority. Good Special Ops and a combat-ready army would be effective for causing a lot of problems for Russian occupation.

The 2018 Law on National Security required that at least 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) be spent on security, with 3% of the total going to defense. Actual defense spending is lower, defense spending in real terms is
lower (around 2.5% of GDP). Ukraine’s 2021 defense budget is 117.6 billion hryvnia ($4.2 billion), 127 million hryvnia ($4.6 million) less than 2020’s budget.

This analysis is based upon a Jan, 27, 2022 three-page report to the US congress.

Ukraine’s navy lost 70% of its vessels and numerous officers after Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. In the aftermath, Ukraine’s political and naval leadership debated reforming the navy back into a balanced fleet, a traditional mix of large and small vessels, or a “mosquito fleet,” focusing on smaller vessels. In 2018, the Ukrainian navy adopted the Strategy of the Naval Forces of Ukraine Until 2035 and selected the mosquito fleet strategy, citing Russia’s dominant naval position in the Black Sea and Ukraine’s limited resources to procure larger vessels.

Like Ukraine’s navy, its air force suffered significant losses during Russia’s invasion. Russia captured or shot down multiple fighters, fighter-bombers, helicopters, and transport aircraft during the conflict. These losses weakened the air force, which previously had suffered from years of neglect and underfunding. Most of Ukraine’s planes and air defense systems are over 30 years old.

Navy and Air force modernization plans have been approved but have mostly not been implemented.

Air Assault and Special Operations Forces
Ukraine’s air assault brigades played a key role combatting Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. Considered elite troops, air assault units originally were light infantry under the army’s command. Out of necessity and experience, Ukraine’s air assault forces increased in size and transitioned into an independent command with heavier equipment.

Analysts generally agree that the creation of Ukraine’s special operations forces is one of the most significant improvements since 2014, despite the small size of the force.

SOURCES – Congressional Report
Writen By Brian Wang,