‘Aerial mercenaries’ will help Ukraine erase the advantage of the Russian Air Force?

There are calls for the creation of a “volunteer unit” of foreign pilots with experience flying Western fighters to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Writing for the Kyiv Post this month, Jeffrey Fischer, a former US Air Force (USAF) colonel asked the Ukrainian Defense Ministry to consider creating a “mercenary air force” to bolster its combat power in the air.

Colonel Fisher revealed that in 2019, due to a severe shortage of pilots, the US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded an “outsourcing” contract to have enough personnel to fly its fighter jets.

A total of seven companies – Ravn (formerly Air USA), Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), Blue Air Training, Coastal Defense, Draken International, Tactical Air Support and Top Aces – purchased a variety of aircraft. , hiring pilots and maintenance staff, as well as other support functions.

These businesses have provided training services to US military pilots and have saved a lot of money for the Pentagon in the process.

Since the pilots of these companies are not active-duty US service members, that would remove one barrier to supporting Ukraine, that is, Washington does not send troops to fight directly.

In addition, Colonel Fischer suggested that such businesses could lease out US-owned aircraft to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), which would eliminate the need for Kyiv to purchase any foreign jets. . Private companies can also provide their own fleet with good qualifications.

One thing to keep in mind, however, such an agreement does not address whether the pilots really want to change their roles from trainer to combat.

Mr Fischer also mentioned a legal dilemma – namely that “volunteer combat” pilots would be considered “unprivileged”.

This means that unlike traditional military personnel who are considered prisoners of war if caught, any private military contractor pilot will become a criminal prisoner in that country.

In addition, the majority of American officials and citizens alike oppose the use of private military contractors (PMCs) in Ukraine, so this will be a significant obstacle to be resolved.

But the development does not mean that Colonel Fischer’s idea is worthless, but it could be a limit the Pentagon is trying to avoid crossing out of fear of escalation, which will drag NATO into a direct war with Russia.

In addition, volunteer pilots flying Western fighters over Ukraine – even if provided with signs of the Ukrainian Air Force, will not be at peace with Russia, which is accusing NATO of waging war. painting.

Western fighters and volunteer pilots may be enough to turn the balance of power in the sky in Kyiv’s favor, but this could also be the basis for President Putin to declare to the Russian people that the West is are at war with them.

According to the comment, neither side will really control the sky, and Ukrainian fighters will avoid entering Russian airspace even when attacking valid military targets, so Western fighters are not the thing. needed at this time. That is why Kyiv continues to insist on aid of main battle tanks rather than aircraft at this time.

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