The Flying Tigers: A Solution to Ukraine’s Air Problem?

Since it seems that there are never-ending roadblocks to providing Russian model fighter and close air support aircraft, from NATO countries, to Ukraine…..USNI Proceedings has a really interesting article regarding resurrect the American Volunteer Group [The Flying Tigers of Claire Chennault fame], in the skies over Ukraine. I’m a ground guy, so I may be missing something in the technical aspects, but overall……lacking the issuance of formal Letters of Marque and reprisal….I rather like this idea. In-depth article, so snips only below:

On 20 December 1941, just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the first American pilots tangled with Japanese bombers over the skies of Kunming, China. Under the leadership of then-Colonel Claire Chennault and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, three squadrons of flyers and maintainers served in the American Volunteer Group (AVG) as a mercenary component of the Chinese Air Force. The famed “Flying Tigers,” originally comprising 100 P-40 Warhawks and 100 pilots, flew combat missions against the Japanese invasion forces in China and Burma from late 1941 to mid-1942 and are credited with 296 enemy aircraft destroyed in slightly more than six months of combat.

With the Russian invasion in Ukraine consolidating and regrouping in Ukraine’s east, the time has come to resurrect this hallowed unit, rebuilt for the modern age. In the weeks since the invasion began on 24 February, the United States and NATO have steadily increased their response from economic sanctions and other deterrence-oriented measures to lend-lease supply of arms to Ukrainian forces, particularly antitank weapons. The defenders have summoned a stiff and willful resistance, and the Russian assault—plagued by logistical and doctrinal shortcomings—stalled significantly in its first month. But it is not unreasonable to question how long the world’s 23rd-largest military force can feasibly hold off the predations of the 5th largest or to wonder how hard a floundering Vladimir Putin might push to save face by securing victory—perhaps with chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons.

If Russia’s withdrawal from the northern theater proves to be a feint followed by a greater reattack, the AVG should primarily focus its efforts on this region. If the areas surrounding Kyiv and Kharkiv remain clear of invasion forces, then the AVG should support the Ukrainian war effort in Donbas.

If the Russo-Ukrainian War were to spill beyond its current borders and draw outside powers into direct conflict, the United States would benefit from having an established foothold in the region. The AVG could be absorbed into the U.S. Air Force, as was its forebear in 1942 with the Army Air Forces. Seasoned aviators would be an invaluable resource as advisors to brief and train new personnel entering the theater or even to lead squadrons in the horrifying combat that would surely follow this worst-case scenario.

16 thoughts on “The Flying Tigers: A Solution to Ukraine’s Air Problem?

  1. Yeah.. I brought up Chennault’s P-40 flyers in a post early in the war,, along with the idea of something similar to the Spanish Civil War’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade… a force made up of American volunteers. In that same conflict the Germans sent their pilots to fight on the side of Franco… which then gave them training for the next war. Their version of an “AVG”.
    At the present the Ukraine military does have units comprised of foreign volunteers, including Americans. I think one immediate question that arises to consider about the concept of an AVG air force in Ukraine is what aircraft do they use? In the China theater the Chinese obtained those P-40’s from the U.S., slapped on their markings, then got American pilots to fly them. The U.S. is not about to give front line fighter tech to anyone, much less under the assumption that only U.S. “volunteers” fly them. Also… it’s not likely the average American pilot “volunteer” would be willing to put his/her life in jeopardy using some old Soviet MIG, much less know how to fly one in combat anyway given the average American trained pilot has no experience in flying MIGs.
    In fact, consider the tech on both sides of this war. The Ukrainians and the Russians are using for the most part old Soviet Cold War stuff against each other. Sure… there’s some tech in using drones, Javalins, Stingers… even Russian cruise missiles. Some newer tech with the various radars in theater. Artillery on both sides are the same. Those 200 M-133 APC’s in this last 800 million deal are Vietnam era armor… made obsolete a generation ago because of advancements in battlefield tech making them vulnerable. Those Russian choppers in that deal are 50’s airframe tech they are still making. The average soldier in the field on both sides are using the old (yet reliable) AK-47, and some variants. Mortars being used on both sides are “old school” (not much to do with a mortar anyway except change the munitions). The Ukrainian battlefield is a hodge-podge of military surplus…. albeit can be still effective in the right hands. One might assume if both sides of a war are using the same tech then it seems a fair fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been suggested to me that the F-35 may be the last manned F/A aircraft the U.S. will produce. The concept of flying remotely piloted aircraft may as easily extend to log and bombing missions. I know the Navy is playing with remote-controlled warships. Should all work out great as long as you have the satellites and the ability to protect them. A big “if”. Given the USA’s new love affair with robotic warfare, UKR would be a great testbed — for both equipment and human controllers — as long as there is a remote destruction protocol to keep the technology out of the hands of the enemy. We are living in interesting times.

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  3. Interesting read and comments. I am sorry I am not well versed enough on the subject to comment. I was only familiar with drones. I did was not aware of this new development. Is this serious or just talk?

    Liked by 1 person

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