Since 24 February 2022, Russian military has conducted cross-border strikes into Ukraine with approximately 1,500 cruise and ballistic missiles reportedly targeting main urban centres, including: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipro, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Odessa, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Mariupol.
Airports, airbases and/or military installations with aviation infrastructure in many of these Ukrainian cities have reportedly been targeted. The strikes are occurring in the wake of the Russian president stating that Russia’s armed forces had initiated a “special military operation” against Ukraine to “protect the Donbass” and to “demilitarize” Ukraine.
Ukraine has closed its airspace, currently until 25 April. Moldova’s airspace remains closed until 25 April, except for a portion from the Romanian border allowing flights to use Chisinau Airport. Belarus has extended the restriction for its southern airspace until 24 April; Russia has closed much of its southwest airspace as well as numerous ATS route segments this month. Extensions of these closures are expected.
Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania have all issued NOTAMs regarding flight planning restrictions and Ukraine-related military activity in their airspace, primarily near their borders with Ukraine and Moldova. Germany has issued an updated NOTAM warning of rerouting and delays in its airspace due to Ukraine-related military activity.
Major regulatory bodies – including EASA, the UK, the US, Canada, France & Germany – have issued conflict zone notices for airspace in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, most with ‘buffer zones’ around Ukrainian airspace ranging up to 200NM.
- Baltic Sea: Reports have emerged of Increased NATO and Russian military air activity as well as presence of GPS/GNSS interference.
- Eastern Europe Border Areas: Further reporting of increased NATO air activity and air-defence system deployments coupled with spillover by drones from the Ukraine conflict.
- Southern Black Sea: Additional reporting of increased NATO and Russian military air activity as well as presence of GPS/GNSS interference.
- Northern Caspian Sea: Emerging reports of Russian military air & naval activity – including cruise missile launches into Ukraine without prior notices issued.
Osprey assesses that large-scale Russian military operations, likely including the use of cruise and ballistic missiles targeting Ukrainian armed forces bases and critical infrastructure sites in Ukraine, including airports/airbases, are expected to persist in the months ahead. Ukraine may continue to conduct a limited number of drone, missile and/or rocket launches into Russian territory, though such attacks are likely to occur within 160km (100 miles) of the border. Increased military air and multi-type/variant missile (air-defence, cruise and/or ballistic) operations by the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces have the potential to cause airspace congestion and would impact the safety of civil aviation flights.
The persistent air and missile operations in southwest Russia, Ukraine and the Black Sea are expected to disrupt availability of airports/airbases, along with access to airspace in these areas indefinitely. There are no indications that Russia or Ukraine intends to kinetically target legal civil aviation flights. However, Osprey assesses there is a significantly increased potential for miscalculation and/or misidentification over Ukraine.
Rerouting of civil aviation over additional portions of Belarus and southwest Russia along with the eastern portions of Moldovan, German, Polish, Hungarian, Slovakian and/or Romanian airspace is a notable concern going forward, either by further regulatory action and/or changes in insurance coverage. More restrictive measures could be enacted at short notice by these countries as well as other leading civil aviation governing bodies, including additional partial restrictions of airspace in the above FIRs or additional airspace areas over the Czech Republic or Croatia, for example. While Ukraine has closed its airspace, leading civil aviation governing bodies may issue further notices to their operators in addition to those detailed above regarding Ukrainian and neighbouring airspace.
Article originally published in UJ Media Ultimate Jet Magazine issue #81 (https://ultimatejet.com/e-magazines/)