No one would have thought the Russian military would be so useless.

Russia's air force consisted of hundreds of fourth- generation fighter jets as well as attack and transport choppers. Russian aircraft have never been able to beat the Ukrainians in air superiority.

There are several reasons for Russia's failure in the air, including inadequate training and poor situational awareness, but Ukraine's air force has fought bravely against a bigger and more advanced adversary, flying combat sorties even in the face of heavy opposition.

Ukraine pilot MiG-29 fighter jet
A Ukrainian pilot exits a MiG-29 fighter jet at a base near Kyiv in November 2016.
Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ukrainian forces kept their air-defense systems moving to make it harder for the Russians to find them.

The Ukrainians didn't have to take extreme defensive measures because the situation on the battlefield had improved and Russia's forces were less effective.

The military can't control the airspace over Ukraine, but pilots from both sides are still able to use it.

Deadly airspace

Ukrainian Air Force Su-25
A Ukrainian Su-25 flies low over the Donetsk region on June 16.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Russian and Ukrainian pilots will do everything in their power to avoid air-defense systems that are used on the battlefield.

One of the best ways to get around an adversary's detection and interdiction systems is to fly so close to the ground or the water that it's difficult to distinguish the aircraft from the earth on radar.

If you want to make yourself a harder target, flying low is the way to go. A naval aviator with experience in F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighter jets told Insider that low-level flying brought another set of considerations.

You have to be well-trained and capable to fly at the nap of the earth. A pilot who was granted anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the media said that death is a couple of seconds away.

Flying low does not guarantee survival.

Ukraine troops Russia Mi-8 helicopter
Ukrainian troops inspect a wrecked Russian Mi-8 helicopter near Makariv on April 9.
Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A video purports to show a Russian Mi-8 helicopter being hit by a missile near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

In a video, a Russian Su-25 pilot records his ejection after the jet, which is designed to conduct close-air-support missions, was hit.

During the war on terror, US and allied aircraft were able to engage enemy targets that were often close to friendly troops.

Russian and Ukrainian aircraft often have to fire blindly or with only cursory attempts to aim at enemy targets before ducking down or deviating from their intended course.

You have to be aware of the realities of the environment. The naval aviator told Insider that he wouldn't survive for long. It's possible to enter the fight with all the training and plans in the world, but if they don't reflect the realities of the airspace, then you're in for an ugly surprise.

Russian Su-25 jet hit by missile over Ukraine
A Russian Su-25 at its base after being struck by an air-defense missile over Ukraine in March 2022.
Russian Ministry of Defense

Small-arms fire, which has been used to bring down modern jets in the past, is one of the threats that an aircraft can be exposed to.

Anti-aircraft guns from the Soviet Union have been used to fight drones and low-flying aircraft.

Ukrainian airspace is deadly for both sides, but pilots still fly over the frontlines.

Russian jets are performing largely ineffective close air support with barrages of unguided bombs and rockets, while Ukrainian attack aircraft have grown more active as Ukrainian forces advance.

A Hellenic Army veteran, a defense journalist specializing in special operations, and a graduate of a prestigious university are just some of the things that Stavros Atlamazoglou is. He is a student at the School of Advanced International Studies.