Ukraine Update 6 March, 2022 (Noon, EST)

  • China’s winter wheat harvest could be the ‘worst in its history’ according to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian. Rare heavy rainfall over the winter season prevented or delayed planting for 1/3 of the wheat acreage. China is the world’s largest wheat consumer and now there are legitimate concerns about its grain supplies. The war in Ukraine has already pushed grain prices to a 14 year high. Together, the two nations produce roughly 30% of wheat exports globally. With the terrible harvest, China now has added justification to purchase grain from Russia in the midst of economic sanctions.
  • Discussions between the US and Poland over a transfer of Polish MiG-29s to Ukraine continue. A deal is under consideration which would replace the MiGs Poland sends to Ukraine with US aircraft. An agreement has not been reached yet amid US concerns that the deal will be viewed as an escalatory move.
  • Airpower is on Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s mind following a morning Russian cruise missile attack on Vinnytsia airport in central Ukraine. The dual international airport/Ukrainian airbase was struck by eight cruise missiles and heavily damaged. Zelenskiy released a video address soon afterward. In it he made an impassioned plea for a no fly zone or replacement aircraft to make up for Ukrainian fighter losses. “If you don’t, if you don’t give us at least planes so we can protect ourselves, there’s only one thing to conclude; you want us to be killed very slowly.” His comments certainly indicate Ukraine is losing the war in the air at this point.

Syrian Update 5 October, 2015: Flying The Tense, Crowded Skies

Turkish air force F-16

On Saturday, a MiG-29 Fulcrum violated Turkish airspace. Turkey responded by scrambling its own fighter aircraft.  F-16s intercepted the MiG and escorted it out of Turkish airspace. On the surface, this seems to be a fairly open and shut case. Russia has apologized for the incursion and blamed weather conditions for the intercept and promised Ankara it would not happen again.

Then today, NATO released a statement on the “Recent dangerous military activities of the Russian Federation in and around Syria.” NATO has claimed that there were multiple incursions of Turkish airspace by Russian Su-30 Flanker and Su-24 Fencer aircraft on Saturday and Sunday. The statement follows a report by the Turkish military claiming that the MiG-29 placed two of its F-16s under radar lock for nearly six minutes. It is still unclear what nation the MiG belonged to, but in all likelihood it was Syrian. The nationality of the pilot is another story entirely.

The danger of an inadvertent confrontation in the skies over Syria or Turkey should not be taken lightly. There are large numbers of warplanes operating over Syria. The aircraft belong to a host of nations. I’ve talked about the chances of an encounter before. It’s a very real possibility with so many aircraft operation in such close proximity. One mistake can lead to an accident that quickly escalates into an international situation or worse. Tensions are high enough right now. It wouldn’t take much to bring on a situation where Russian and Coalition aircraft are engaging and firing on each other.

This past weekend should serve as a warning. Unfortunately, the chances that Moscow will see it as such are slim. Russia has the initiative in this crisis for the moment. The US, Turkey, NATO and other parties opposed to Bashar al-Assad are reacting to Russian actions. That does not seem like it will be changing anytime soon.

Make no mistake about it, the situation in the skies over Syria is a dangerous one, and bound to deteriorate even more unless something changes fast.