The absence of any efficient anti-air defense is certainly the biggest weakness of the Ukrainian Defense. It is not totally absent but almost and this is very dangerous face to an enemy which relies in its strategy on massive air strikes.
The Ukrainian Defense industry has no single capacity in anti-air defense, all the components of this type of armament system are imported, ammunitions included, so far from Russia… And if Ukraine has a very well trained army the conflict opened by Russia in 2014 has never pushed Ukraine to develop its anti-air capacities. The war was until the attack of Feb 2022 mostly an infantry and artillery battle with low air engagements.
In addition to that sophisticated anti-air defense systems are extremely expensive for a country having poor budget capacities. Each year only 9 to 11 bn$ can be allocated to Defense. For comparison Poland acquired in 2018 two US Patriot batteries, each with two fire units, and this represented a 4,75bn$ investment.
Then Ukraine currently has only the heritage from his soviet past. I am eagerly looking for precise figures but could only find the following ones which might not be very accurate and come from a pre-war assessment:
. long-range (40 km, radar syst up to 80km) : 7-8 C300PS divisions, with approx 50 launchers for approx 200 missiles(?). 40 year old soviet system – fully dependent from … Russia, or from hypothetical donation from Bulgaria or Slovakia
. middle-range (20km, radar syst 75km): 60BUK, also very old and very much dependent from Russia
. short-range S125 Petchora (60 year old…) and now the US Stinger are arriving (4’800 m range, max. 11’000 feet alt, passive IR + UV guidance) given by few countries (US 800, Germany 500, Netherland 200, few hundreds from Baltics countries). UK is considering to provide Startstreaks missiles (7km range, above Mach3 velocity).
For the time being the No-Fly-Zone rightly demanded by Ukraine is a no-go for Nato since a No-Fly-Zone would mean that NATO would have to directly defend the No-Fly-Zone by shooting the Russian planes which would not respect it, i.e. would be directly involved in the war. A too dangerous step at this stage, but which could soon come if Putin bombs the Ukrainian cities as he bombed Grozny and still bombs Syria.
Ukraine and the international community should be quick and agile to strengthen Ukrainian air defense.
– if not already provided by the US to Ukraine the Tech community should very quickly build a digital mapping & sat tracking of any Russian military plane flying on Russia, Belarus or Ukrainian
– the Ukrainian air defense community should have this map on its smart phone and be engaged through an A.I. target allocation.
This could at last better coordinate the use of the existing air defense systems.