Dean of the Mitchell Institute Visits Ukraine

Arlington, VA | May 21, 2024

Kyiv, Ukraine — Recently, Lt Gen David A. Deptula, the Dean of the Mitchell Institute, was invited to Kyiv, Ukraine, to participate in discussions with key leaders of their Air Force, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the Ministry of Defense. Discussions across three days centered on optimizing the use of airpower in accomplishing the defense of Ukraine and ejecting Russian military forces. Gen Deptula emphasized that achieving air superiority is vital to securing those objectives.

Gen Deptula noted that for Ukraine to achieve air superiority requires the conduct of an offensive counter-air campaign to negate Russia’s means of power projection into and over Ukrainian territory. Negating Russia’s means of power projection requires the lifting of restrictions on the use of U.S. provided weapons. These constraints prevent optimal weapons employment against Russian military forces and provide Russia a sanctuary. This greatly benefits Russia’s ability to stage forces, operate, and supply its war-making capacity from its territory. For example, Russian surface-to-air missile sites operate free of any threat of U.S.-provided weapons, allowing the Russians the ability to engage any Ukrainian aircraft deep into Ukrainian airspace.

Gen Deptula also addressed the importance of the integration of military operations among all the services, intelligence agencies, and special operating forces of Ukraine. Taking an integrated, joint approach to the conduct of operations could have a leveraged effect in the accomplishment of their objectives. A first step toward this kind of integration could be achieved by assigning advisors for Air Force, Navy, Cyber, and Special Operations and integrating them into the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which consists largely of Army personnel.

When asked what impressed him the most from his time in Kyiv, he responded, “The dedication, commitment, and tenacity of the people of Ukraine in defending their nation.” However, Deptula notes, “Without more sensible policy on the use of U.S. provided weapons, those weapons will merely prolong this conflict, not end it. They need to be used to gain the airpower advantage Ukraine desperately needs to provide freedom from attack as well as the freedom to attack. This is the number one issue to resolve if the U.S. wants to assist Ukraine in freeing its Russian occupied territory, while minimizing the risk of extended trench warfare that is exhausting Ukraine.” 

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